Notes Antic Disposition

Becoming Cyclic

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

Edward Abbey

Humans lack cohesive understanding of the cultural and environmental flow-on effects of industrial and consumerist technology, which continues to eject a huge volume of increasingly complex assemblages into reality.

It's hard enough to predict the interaction of a single major technological development (eg: use of a newly synthesized chemical), let alone the interaction between hundreds of thousands of these developments and the interlocking systems they are hurled into, leading to effects that are even more complex and harder to predict. The economic tradition of explaining away externalities systematically serves to mask the existence of these complex, unpredictable effects.

We need to become better at admitting our fallibility when it comes to prediction, but we also need to consider how to modulate these exponential growth curves, to become cyclic, rather than soar towards infinity (if you believe Kurzweil), or slide towards the asymptote of armageddon (if you believe Abrahamic religion).

Becoming cyclic means changing our cultural imperatives to embrace values of guardianship, sustainability, and respect for the effects our actions have on future generations as much as our own. I’m interested in what the lowest common denominator of these values might be, expressed in a way that crosses cultural and religious barriers, and reaches those addicted to consumption in an effective way.

In a more abstract sense, becoming cyclic requires a change in the nature of how we visualize time, treating it as a circuit rather than a marching line unto the end. It means understanding ebbs and flows of energy modulation as intimately as we understand the thermodynamic arrow of time, and appreciating that death also means birth.

One thing that I have always found deeply beautiful and intriguing about the Māori culture, is the poetic play on the word whenua, which means both land and placenta.