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Adapting to the Digital World

When we read information in the way that it is meant to be read, in the way that it has been designed to be read, then we become unconscious!



Alternatively, we could say that when we interact with a logical system in the way that the system in question requires us to interact with it, then we become incapable of seeing that system for what it really is. We become incapable – in other words – of seeing that system in any other way than the way in which it represents itself! These two statements are equivalent – they are saying exactly the very same thing.



This – we might say – is the problem of ‘adaptation’, which is a problem we are continually running into whether we realize it or not. Adaptation is where anything that is not the pattern, not the system, automatically becomes irrelevant, and because it automatically becomes irrelevant it becomes invisible, inaccessible. When we adapt to a formal structure (a logical system) then any information that does not fit in with this structure, this system, straightaway becomes lost to us.



The point that we are making here is therefore that in order to read information ‘in the way that it is meant to be read’ we have to look at things in the way that the system wants us to look at them and this means that we have to make the same assumptions that the logical system itself has had to make in order that it may be ‘a logical system’. This is how the process of adaptation works. Saying that we have to make the same assumptions as the system is simply another way of saying that we have to make the system’s blind-spot our own!



Logical systems always come with their own blind-spot. This blind-spot is how they get to be logical systems in the first place! Systems of logic (or ‘formal systems’) are what we could call ‘over-simplifications of reality. They are reality made black-and white. Or we could say that they are what reality gets to look like after it gets put in boxes, put in slots, put in categories, when actually reality doesn’t come in boxes, doesn’t come in slots, doesn’t come in categories…



Logical systems are ‘over-simplifications of reality’ in the same way that ‘digital’ is an over-simplification of ‘analogue’. Reality is analogue and logical systems (without exception) are digital. Of course logical systems are digital (or ‘binary’) – they only get to be what they are (they only get to be ‘logical systems’) because they are made up of definite YES/NO statements and definite YES/NO statements are what being digital (or being binary) is all about…



How can a definite statement (which says “It’s this but not that”) not be digital? The very thing that makes a statement definite is the boundary between what is and what isn’t, between what the statement says and what it doesn’t say, and boundaries are quintessentially digital. They divide the world into YES and NO, PLUS and MINUS, INCLUDED and EXCLUDED. Reality as it is in itself does not have any boundaries – reality does not exclude anything! If we come across boundaries then this is because we have put them there and it is by adding boundaries where previously there weren’t any that we turn an analogue reality into a digital representation.



We might argue – if we were of a scientific disposition – that reality is not analogue (i.e. ‘continuous’). Do we not now know that electromagnetic radiation comes in quanta just as matter comes in particles, and that even space and time come in discrete packages (rather than being continuous as we have previously imagined)? The Planck distance is the smallest length of space that can be measured just as the Planck interval is the shortest stretch of time. So the universe is indeed digital (or ‘corpuscular’), we might contend…



The question we need to ask however (if we are to take this any further) is what lies beyond the Planck distance, what do we find when we look beyond the Planck interval? We can’t measure it, but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing there! There is no rational answer to this question since we can’t use the digital mind to probe the non-digital universe but an answer can be found – albeit an answer that comes in the form of a riddle. The riddle is, “What is it that is bigger than big and smaller than small?” In other words, what is at the same time both smaller than the Planck distance and bigger than the entire universe?



If we were to look at this in terms of a symmetry-breaking model of cosmogenesis then the answer would be ‘symmetry’. The state of ‘original symmetry’ is both smaller than the Planck distance and bigger than bigger than the entire universe. If we wished to use a less scientific and more traditionally mystical language, we could also answer the riddle by saying that the answer is ‘eternity’. Eternity is both shorter than the Planck interval and longer than the life-span of the universe”. It both fits neatly into the tiniest seashell, and surrounds the multitudinous galaxies on all sides. As the well-known opening lines in William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence go:


To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.


Symmetry is where yes is not different from no and plus not different from minus. It is – in other words – the absence of the formal boundaries that create (by their very existence) the opposing realities of yes/no, in/out, plus/minus, up/down and all the other polar opposites. In the absence of boundaries (which is to say, ‘sorting rules’) there are no polarities and the absence of polarity is what we are calling ‘original symmetry’. The absence of dissymmetry is what we are calling ‘original symmetry’!



Original symmetry is not something that existed prior to the genesis of the physical universe, or prior to the creation of the space/time continuum – it exists at ‘right angles’ to the physical universe. It exists outside (or ‘independently’) of the space/time continuum and so it never ‘began’ nor will it ever ‘end’. Beginnings and endings only comes into the picture subsequent to the imposition of a boundary – ‘start’ and ‘stop’, ‘begin’ and ‘end’ are polarities and so they are not to be found in the state of original symmetry…



The process by which the physical universe (or the space/time continuum, which is inseparable from the physical universe) is therefore – according to this model – a process of symmetry-breaking. This is more than just a theory in physics however – from a philosophical point of view we can argue that we have to freely agree for a rule to be there before it can be there. There’s no rule saying that there has to be a rule. Or as we could equivalently say, ‘nothing can happen unless it is free to happen’. But being ‘free to happen’ means that it is also ‘free not to happen’ and so what we’re talking about here cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called ‘a rule’! A rule cannot be a rule if it says that something is to happen at the same time as saying that it is free not to happen. This is a rule that is no rule. When we apply this supposed rule we find that the situation that comes about afterwards is in no way different from the one that prevailed before! This is a phantom rule therefore, a rule that doesn’t exist.



Talking about a rule however is just another way of talking about a dissymmetry (since a rule operates by dividing the world into what is allowed and what is not allowed) and so what we are actually saying here when we say that rules can only come from rule-lessness is that a dissymmetrical situation can only ever come into being from a symmetrical one… The dissymmetrical world (i.e. the digital world) can only come about if the symmetrical world is there already, and so the existence of dissymmetry points (in a not-so-obvious way) to the existence of symmetry. Or we could say that the existence of the digital world demonstrates (in an obscure way) the reality of the non-digital one…



Actually, there’s ‘no such thing’ as dissymmetry (or polarity) – not in any absolute sense. There’s no such thing as ‘the digital universe’! It’s just a kind of illusion that can be facilitated by symmetry, just as the ocean can facilitate all the +/- waves that run about on its surface. The digital universe is a simulation that is run by the non-digital universe – it is a vastly over-simplified version of the original (a ‘pale copy of heaven’s original’) that is run by the analogue universe and it is an over-simplified version that we get very effectively trapped in!



When we adapt (as we are pretty much obliged to) the digital universe we ‘make the same assumptions that it does’. When we adapt to the digital universe we ‘make its blind-spot our blind-spot’. What then – we may ask – is its blind-spot?



Very simply put, the blind-spot of the digital universe is the same thing as the blind-spot of the rule. A rule is a dissymmetry, as we have said. It says. “This is allowed, anything else is not allowed.” It specifies what is allowed and anything that has not been specified doesn’t get to be allowed, doesn’t get to exist. This is the mechanism by which the rule operates. The rule says (in what we can call a ‘positive’ way) “This exists” and by implication anything else – anything not specifically approved by the rule – doesn’t exist.



So only what the rule specifies is allowed, only what the rule specifies exists. But this is just another way (a sneaky way) of saying that only the rule is allowed, only the rule exists. Very clearly, ‘what the rule specifies’ is what the rule is. The rule is what it specifies, nothing more. The rule is defining itself. So if we ask what the rule ignores (in order to define itself), the answer is that it ignores everything that is not itself!



But there is a twist to this and the twist is that the rule itself doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as ‘a rule’. There’s only such a thing if we agree beforehand that there will be. There’s only such a thing if we agree to look at things in such a way that there appears to be. There’s only such a thing if we systematically ignore everything that contradicts our belief in the thing. Or as we could also say, there’s only such a thing as a rule (or what the rule specifies) if we develop some kind of all-encompassing blind-spot…!



Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.

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