A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
A Bright, Vibrant Blue Diamond
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site
John Æonid, Reflections in a Personal Web Site

Societal Granularity

Dec. 25, 2019, John Æonid

In a sense, I'm just an old man sitting on a park bench.  Once in a while, somebody walking a dog strolls by.  The dog sniffs my knee, and I lean forward offering my hand to sniff.  The person walking the dog politely acknowledges me by way of a proud and loving smile that the dog is being so friendly.  I might say hello to the dog, which will most likey be in almost a baby-talk voice: "hello there, little one."  I also have the opportunity to greet the human, or not as the situation calls for.

Yet, there are other ways to describe myself.  Perspective is key.

In my day job, I work with computers.  Now this could mean that I sell and repair computers in some little shop.  Though, such shops are becoming rare.  But, I imagine they're like old clock shops, in which an old craftsman tinkers away at the little gears and springs in the movements of those old ticking clocks.  However, with computer shops, there's always a back room with musty old circuit boards and cooling fans lying around. 

Or, saying that I work with computers could also mean that I work in some IT department, in which IT workers do what they can to find the control panel that Microsoft keeps moving in each new version of Windows so you can't find it.  However, some support desks will simply tell users they can Google that.

But, if I tell people that I have a Computer Science degree, then I'm either a software developer, or I'm aspiring to be or am a professor.  But unless you're into that, it's about as interesting as saying you're a Statistician (with all due apologies to statisticians).

So these days, I say I work in cyber-security (or more formally, information security).  Oh, well, now that's interesting.  People then ask: “what do I do if I get ransomware” (don't pay!!!, off-line backups), or: “how do I keep my baby cam or security camera from getting hacked by voyeurs?” (strong and separate passwords for the device, the cloud service, and your NAT router).

But, notice the significance of each of these perspectives.  And also, notice the granularity of these perspectives.  The old man on the bench is just a man.  His vague history and former life doesn't really come into play for most people. The person working in one of those, now rare, computer shops isn't really like one from some old, well-established clock shop.  Also, the place I had my shoes repaired is gone.  Or, was that really a true cobbler shop?  He did wear the classic cobbler's apron after all.  That kind of thing makes me think of Geppetto's workshop.  Such things exist in fairy tales for a reason.  What is there like this currently entering our culture, or are such images being pushed into the past?

If I was just an IT worker, then surly I must work for some company or corporation.  Are those more significant.  But since I have a Computer Science degree, I now have a sheepskin from one of those proud institutions we call a University.  Then when I add that I work in cyber-security, now it must be some large corporation or institution that I work for.  Or, perhaps it even might mean that I'm a cyber warrior deep in the cyber war, defending us on our home soil stopping cyber invasions from foreign lands and organized crime.

Now let's shift to considering other kinds of organizations.  I've noticed in various business office parks that there are now many of these little churches.  They've rented office space so they can have a place to gather—instead of raising the funds to build something more substantial and permanent.  Have you seen these?  That's quite a departure from the traditional edifice of a church.  Though, I know quite well that a church isn't really the building in which it resides.  But, that's still something we have to remind ourselves of, as well as pass on to our children.  There are big city churches, and there are little ones too.  Then there are the old country churches, which come in varying sizes.  I've also seen what was clearly a house with a steeple added, and it even had a sign out front saying what denomination it was. 

I've been to churches where I've met, or more truthfully just shaken the hand of, famous, or again more truthfully somewhat famous, politicians.  But, how do we feel about the significance of these churches?  How does the quaint little country church stand up?  Is it a warm gathering place for a close-knit community or something else?  How about those newer churches renting office space?  Is that the erosion of the traditional church, or can you imagine it housing an enthusiastic gathering of bright souls?  Personally, the regular gatherings I attend are in an old building mostly occupied by alternative healing practices, but I feel quite strongly that the people who gather there are beautiful, bright souls.

It's also fairly well recognized that in these times fewer medical doctors are in solitary practice, as most doctor's offices are now collective medical businesses.  I've sometimes used the term assembly-line medicine.  The point is that the granularity of business organizations is growing toward larger more corporatized ones.

In the earliest days of the Internet, there were no Internet corporations.  Web sites were mostly hosted by institutions, and many web pages for individuals were mostly some kind of a one-off creation.  In those days, we would connect with a modem over a telephone line, beee-brrrr-bip.  And, that would typically be by way of some online service like AOL or Compuserve.  There was controversy as some of the services like these emerged.  Some were criticized for being commercial walled-in communities—with captive audiences. 

Some felt quite strongly that the Internet was best off without any commercial walled-in communities (which was and is my view).  Then the Internet Service Providers (ISP's) came along.  And, now the Internet is very different than it was in the early days.  Some of the biggest corporations are Internet corporations.  And, most of these major Internet services want us to sign up, which further encourages regular participation—creating a sort of a captive audience.  And, there are those that are walled in, or partially walled-in, communities—ensuring a more captive audience.

My personal web site, the one where I'm posting this article, is entirely mine.  Yet, I purchase the space from a hosting provider and currently use its site builder's templates.  Like the old Internet, I don't ask for any sign up, I don't track users, and I don't include any advertising.  That makes this site kind of like the old man on a park bench.  Or, maybe it's like a booth at some kind of fair.  I rent the space, and people can stop by and see what I have to offer.

Normally, this web site is not a place where I really want to go too deeply into politics, but we're about to dip our toes a bit.  To be clear, this article is not really about corporatization or monopolization.  Nor, is it about gentrification or any of the other political topics about social change.  But, we will touch on economics and the market just a bit.

The thing that I want to point out is the significance that we give to social structures, and how the size of a social structure tends to give such structures more significance.  This is a matter of human behavior, and it affects the manner in which we regard our communities.  Do we want to be part of something that's big?  Or, do we value the intimate closeness of a small group?  The likely case is that most people prefer some range of these associations.  Yet, we can clearly see that among individuals the overall range of these size preferences varies.

In philosophy, there is a question of whether the group is more important or whether individuals are more important.  Some philosophies are very individualistic, while others put a great importance on the collective. 

For me to explain my view, let's have a brief look at economics.  We often hear criticism of corporations for certain kinds of products, and that corporations often respond by saying that they are only selling what the consumer wants.  That is, corporations are saying that they are just being of service.  Does that mean that corporations are subservient to the consumer?  Or, is the opposite more correct? Is it the that the consumer is subservient to corporations? 

In reality, the balance here is an emergent behavior.  It's a balance that is determined by the market rules.  The market consists of sellers and buyers.  Neither need be dominant, but what emerges is a matter of how the rules work.  This ultimately means that if you focus only on the buyers, or if you focus only on the sellers, then you will have an imbalanced perspective that cannot see the whole (cannot see the forest for the trees).  The correct view is one that sees an ocean of interacting individual particles—along with the granularity of the waves ever rolling on the surface and the granularity of the currents that flow deep beneath the waves.

Now backing away from what can be a very political topic, let's come back to looking at the relationship between the individual and the group.  I've come to see that there can be no group without individuals, and there can be no individual without a group.  If at some point in time something far out in the Universe could suddenly become conscious, and it was far isolated from any other conscious entity, how could it have a concept of other conscious entities in a group?  In fact, I don't believe there can be a high level of consciousness under such conditions.  A conscious being must become familiar with a group of conscious entities in order to reach a high level of conscioiusness (see Mirrors of God).  So, an individual conscious entity in isolation cannot understand what it means to be an individual because there is no concept of a group.

Consider the case of feral children.  These are children that have lived in the wilderness or in isolation well past the point at which language is acquired and social enculturation occurs.  Thankfully, this is very rare.  Yet, because they're rare, Scientists don't have a wide body of knowledge about them.  But, it is known that they are past the age of fulling learning a language or proper social interaction.  Nor do the bond well with others.  Such behaviors are things that young children learn as easily as simply growing.  But, children only learn so easily up to a certain age and only in the presence of a nurturing family.  Without family nurturing prior at that young age, a child can't acquire the capacity to be a part of a group.  So, does such a child understand what it means to be an individual in the same way that a normal child can.  In fact, there is a distinct developmental stage in which a child comes to know that it is an individual.  Of course, some parents come to regret this—as it's followed by the terrible two's

So, what does this mean when an individual in a culture submits to a group?  Consider what the mental health sciences are now finding.  They report that those active in social media tend to be more depressed.  Doesn't this imply that—in making the group more important than the individual—the individual loses some degree of self value?  Or, is it that the mechanisms to shift the emphasis to the group are ones that devalue the individual.  Just how much should we subordinate ourselves to any particular group, particularly a large and possibly soulless one?

This means that the highest level of consciousness can only be achieved with both a strong sense of one's individual nature—and—a strong sense of the nature of one's relationship to and interaction with the group.  Again, the correct view is one that sees an ocean of interacting individual particles—along with the granularity of the waves ever rolling on the surface and the granularity of the currents that flow deep beneath the waves.

So, the significance of these Internet services is that they also influence the level of subservience to which people are willing to submit.  And, their sense of individual value suffers.  This also applies to whatever happens to be the latest and greatest thing, like some very popular movie franchise or addictive television series.  The creators and providers of these things spend money to make these things desireable—with the intent to achieve, or at least go up against, market dominance.  To that end, they make it so that you have to keep up if you want to be part of the group—and that you should feel bad if you don't (both keep up and be part of the group, that is).

This contrast between group and individual seems a kind of paradox.  But, when a thing exists and seems a paradox, what it must really be is a trick of the mind.  And, that's what it is.  I've said that a feral child is not quite the same thing as an individual in a culture.  It's the terminology that's limited, leaving a thing to seem inherently contradictory.  So, it seems a paradox when people go to great lengths to dramatically express their individuality—and then post pictures of that individuality on social media seeking the approval of the group.

The strange part about granularity is this: when you're in it, you can't see everything.

Again, we're asking: which is dominant, the individual or the group?  The suppliers of our culture have become very sophisticated.  They are able to employ powerful technology, and such technology that is beginning to exceed our ability to resist.  It also diminishes our ability to reflect on our individual nature outside of those influences.  Soon, that technology will be driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), as it almost is.  Whether or not AI will ever achieve anything like our capacity for conscious reflection is still a subject of debate.  And, this is a major topic of science, as well as a long-standing topic of science fiction (e.g. “The Matrix”).  Yet, it's often asked: should AI eventually achieve a capacity for conscious reflection, can we expect it to have our sense of humanity and be sympathetic to our individuality?

But if the suppliers of our culture are becoming both sophisticated enough to overcome our capacity to resist—and—also become able to employ Artificial Intelligence to that end, what will happen to our humanity?  What will happen to our ability to know our relation to culture—as an individual?  Again, this is a much discussed topic.  And again, this is to point out what it means to examine the balance between the group and the individual.  A third time, I say the correct view is one that sees an ocean of interacting individual particles—along with the granularity of the waves ever rolling on the surface and the granularity of the currents that flow deep beneath the waves.

Apologies for being deliberately repetitive, but these points need great emphasis.  Our highest level of consciousness arises when we can equally reflect both on the nature of our individuality and the nature of our relationship to and interaction with the group.  And, one last time: deeply see the ocean of interacting individual particles—along with the granularity of the waves ever rolling on the surface and the granularity of the currents that flow deep beneath the waves.

Societal granularity is a matter of cultural perspective.  Some just cannot see the forest for the trees. That's an expression that I once found difficult to grasp.  But, now it has become a way of expressing what worries me about our culture—though I say it somewhat differently.  Those who can master this are the ones elevating their consciousness, and the masters are those whose consciousness is truly free.

Still, I'm just an old man sitting on a park bench.  Fortunately, I love dogs.

Editorial Aside: In that first paragraph, “dog” somehow got spelled backward.  You do know what “dog” spelled backward is, don't you?  When I'm texting, I use that little virtual keyboard on the screen, and repeated letters often don't register as repeated.  So, when someone asks how I am, I often find myself typing “I'm god”, which really feels embarrassing.  I haven't yet hit send on one of those, but surely one day I will. And God help me if I ever capitalize it. ;) Then I'll have to send a correction with an embarrassed emoticon or emoji.  And, I'll surly get an “LOL” in reply.  Well, maybe I'm a bit dyslexic, and maybe I'm a little too impatient to let that second letter register solidly on those virtual keyboards.  So, I end up having to correct myself. Yet, I can't really tell if I'm making such mistakes more often than others or not.  Though, it's clear speech-to-text gets most of the blame these days.  Still, God seems to be everywhere—even though they* are not often anything more than a typo.  *That's the new gender-neutral “they”.  It seems only natural.  Theology doctrines have long held that God has no gender. :)

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