“We are simpler than we think
and at the same time more complex
than we can imagine.”
— adapted from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE FOR HUMANITY…
WE NEED A BETTER UNDERSTANDING of what it means to be human.
WE HAVE TO EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES about how we are in the world, why we are the way we are, and what it all means for who we — as individuals and as a species — want to become.
IT ALL BEGINS WITH REIMAGINING OURSELVES and that which makes us most distinctly ourselves: the physical brain and the cognitive mind.
WE CAN THINK ABOUT THE BRAIN in different ways: how it fits together like a puzzle, how it functions like a biological machine, how it processes information like a computer, or how it’s complex and adaptive like an ecosystem.
BUT WHO KNOWS HOW IT REALLY WORKS?
THE BRAIN IS A MYSTERY that enables us to wonder about the mystery all around us.
WE CAN LOOK UP AT A NIGHT SKY FULL OF STARS and wonder about the universe…
EVEN AS WE LOOK WITHIN OURSELVES to wonder about the nature of wonder.
IN A WORLD OF ITERATIVE PATTERNS, there are themes repeating throughout multiple levels of scale in space and time.
WHAT IF the cognitive emergence of mind from brain follows the same pattern as the physical emergence of life from matter?
THE EMERGENCE OF LIFE from subatomic particles to atoms to molecules to cells…
IS AN ITERATIVE PATTERN of interaction at a subatomic level giving rise to interaction at an atomic level giving rise to interaction at a molecular level giving rise to interaction at a cellular level giving rise to living organisms.
THE EMERGENCE OF MIND from the physical body (sensation) to intuitive emotion (feeling) to mental representation (abstraction) to reflective meaning (narrative)…
COULD BE A SIMILAR PATTERN of interaction at the level of Perception giving rise to interaction at the level of Association giving rise to interaction at the level of Conception giving rise to interaction at the level of Interpretation giving rise to metacognitive awareness.
PERCEPTION IS THE PROCESSING OF PHYSICAL SENSATIONS we experience through the world and the body.
ASSOCIATION IS THE PROCESSING OF INTUITIVE FEELINGS we experience through embodied memory and emotion.
CONCEPTION IS THE PROCESSING OF MENTAL ABSTRACTIONS we experience through symbolic thought and words.
INTERPRETATION IS THE PROCESSING OF REFLECTIVE NARRATIVE we experience through creative imagination and story.
LIKE LEVELS OF PHYSICAL EMERGENCE, these levels of cognitive emergence are hierarchical, with larger-scale dynamics emerging from smaller-scale dynamics.
PERCEPTION INVOLVES CONSTRUCTING an awareness of the world (by putting together the pieces of our physical sensations).
ASSOCIATION INVOLVES MAPPING our awareness of relationships among perceptions (by connecting the dots among our intuitive feelings).
CONCEPTION INVOLVES SYNCHRONIZING our awareness of networks of associations and perceptions (by cracking the linguistic codes for our mental abstractions).
INTERPRETATION INVOLVES INTEGRATING our awareness of configurations of conceptions, associations, and perceptions (by finding the meaning in our internalized narratives).
PERCEPTION, ASSOCIATION, CONCEPTION, AND INTERPRETATION are the foundation for a multi-level system of cognitive emergence.
THIS IS A THEORETICAL MAP for exploring questions and ideas about emergent complexity, cognitive theory, and transformative design:
HOW CAN AN EMERGENT SYSTEMS PERSPECTIVE INFORM OUR UNDERSTANDING:
of the world and the nature of our everyday lives?
of cognition and its relationship to the body, heart, mind, and spirit?
of ourselves and the possibilities for personal and social transformation?
Emergent Cognition Project