Reviewing human knowledge and CONTACT

By Eamonn Ansbro
Astronomer
ICER National Representative for the Republic of Ireland

 

One of ICER aims is to present the results to the academic community of the ongoing research on a cartographic approach to the representation of knowledge in its present configurations in its relationship to the Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena or UAP.

Maps create new realities

The aim of the ICER research for the academic community is to extend the cartographic metaphor beyond visual analogy, and to expose it as a narrative model and tool to intervene in complex, heterogeneous, dynamic realities, just like those of human geography. The map, in this context, is not only a passive representation of reality but a tool for the production of meaning. The map is thus a communication device: a mature representation artefact, aware of its own language and its own rhetoric, equipped with it its own tools, languages, techniques and supports. A model that recovers the narrative abilities of pre-scientific maps and presents itself not as a mere mimetic artefact, but as a poetic and political tool.

The map as narration is thus the expression of a communicative purpose. Just like a text, the map makes selections on reality, distorts events, classifies and clarifies the world in order to selectivity, better tell a particular aspect of a territory, an event, a space. When used with malice, it can hide, conceal, falsify or diminish a reality through the construction of an ideological discourse, in which the communicative aims are hidden to the user. In this context, the term ‘map’is a synonym of visual narration of space: a cultural artefact created by an author to describe a space according to an objective.

The map as a tool appears instead as a means that enables the user to reach an otherwise unattainable goal. It allows not only to do things better, more efficiently, but also to create new realities. As an instrument, the map expects a user using it to achieve an end, and similarly a designer, who must ensure that the structure of the instrument is as suited as possible for the achievement of the planned tasks.

Maps are amazing things. They tell us where we have been, where we are now, and where we may decide to go in the future. Human beings accord incredible significance to maps, often using maps of one sort or another to organize the entire trajectories of their lives.

The cartography of human knowledge is laid out in map-like form in the organization of disciplines in the academic community. Here, we use the term ‘knowledge’ in its colloquial sense of facts accumulated over time pertaining to a particular domain or field of intellectual inquiry while putting to the side more profound philosophical questions regarding how knowledge relates to other cognitive-emotional categories such as wisdom, insight, and intuition. That is because one of the main objectives is to consider how we organize knowledge and its pursuit by means of disciplinary maps in the academic community.

 

Considerations for CONTACT

To address the question above, we ask to imagine a radical scenario as a catalyst for thought reflection. Namely, what would happen to the cartography of human knowledge and is disciplinary maps if widespread Contact with advanced extraterrestrial or other forms of advanced, intelligent, non-human life were to occur? Here, we capitalize “Contact” to indicate widespread Contact over essentially the entire human species, as opposed to more local, individual instances of contact, which some people may argue already have occurred. It makes great sense to invoke this catalyst question so human beings are well-prepared if widespread Contact is imminent. In many respects, it really does not matter if Contact has occurred already, if it occurs five minutes from now, or if it occurs at any point in future time, perhaps will little or no warning. In any scenario, starting the discussion now regarding its potential implications will make human beings better prepared for this eventuality.

 

CONTACT ramifications for human knowledge

What would widespread Contact mean for human knowledge creation, analysis, propagation, and organization? Here we engage this discussion aimed at international, multidisciplinary group of academics and scholars, and in a manner that provides the opportunity of consideration that transcends political ideologies, religious affiliations and geopolitical strategies. We start with the premise that humankind’s cartography of knowledge is reflected in the map of disciplines in the academy. Setting aside for the moment how knowledge may be organized in more localized settings, we find it significant that the map of academic disciplines is mostly consistent across world, even when political ideologies and geopolitical agenda are not the least bit consistent between countries or even within them.

Although inquiring into the intellectual history of each nation-state and region of the world would reveal how, when, and why such disciplinary standardization has occurred globally, we also leave this question to the side to inquire more deeply into the very fact of disciplinary standardization itself. We also note that the map of academic disciplines is so consistent across almost if not all major countries in the world that we tend to take the current, disciplinary organization of knowledge for granted.

All major academic institutions the world over, have a department of physics, for example, and departments of chemistry, biology, and mathematics. Such disciplinary consistency is not merely present in the natural sciences. It also mostly describes the situations in the social science, which are organized globally into domains such as psychology, sociology, economics, political science, etc. Cross-culturally, even the humanities consistently present departments of religion, history, philosophy, aesthetic theory, etc. This of course means that the same, tripartite scheme of ‘natural sciences,’‘social sciences, ‘and ‘humanities’ functions as a consistent organizational principle across cultures, even when political systems and languages of both society and instruction differ considerably.

Recognizing such disciplinary consistency, human beings may be tempted to pat themselves on the back, as if disciplinary consistency itself indicates that somehow, they’ve ‘gotten it right,’ i.e., that human beings have uncovered something fundamental about how the world works and about the nature of reality itself—and that they have organized their academic departments as a reflection of this fundamental order. But have we ‘gotten it right?’ Maybe a little, but certainly not entirely. After all, physics still faces challenges reconciling its theories about the large and the small; and disciplines such as chemistry and biology have not fully penetrated the deepest levels of questions regarding what life itself really is.

So, while the map of academic disciplines we have put forth as a reflection of the cartography of knowledge as we best understand it in this moment may help us pragmatically adapt to the practicalities of life here on Earth—at least to a certain extent—it has not really given us the answers to some of the most compelling questions we can ask as human beings.

Who are we?
What are we doing here?
What is life?
How does human life fit into the cosmos as a whole?
How can we make our lives truly meaningful while we live them?
Is human knowledge useful to the world?

Even more self-reflectively, human beings should ask themselves just how well their present cartography of knowledge actually helps them adapt well to life on Earth. This is an urgent question, since humankind is facing challenges that are truly global in nature—hunger and starvation; climate change; species extinction and loss of biodiversity; war; mass human migration; pandemics; desertification; possible polar shifts and asteroid and comet impacts; the global debt bubble; financialization of the global economy; enormous disparities in wealth and access to resources and basic social services, such as healthcare; violent crime, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation; etc.

Frankly, we often blame poor outcomes in these arenas on deficiencies in our political and governance systems, or on conflict between nation-states, or on the exigencies of global and regional power structures. But perhaps the real problem lies at a much deeper level. It is far more plausible that shortcomings in how we govern ourselves and relate to one another result from errors in how we create, organize, and transmit knowledge. This means that to improve life on Earth, we must address this deeper level of knowledge organization rather than merely responding ad hoc to one crisis after another.

 

Shortcomings of human knowledge

Two major signs that the human cartography of knowledge has major shortcomings and that, accordingly, the map of disciplines in the academy needs to be redrawn are the high level of strife in human society and now poorly human beings are doing in managing Earth’s abundant resources.

Both realities are connected to how humans pursue, organize, and transmit knowledge since shortcomings in human education feed directly into human governance systems. When human beings are being socialized by the educational system into perceiving reality in ways that are fundamentally incomplete and/or inaccurate, these misperceptions percolate up through society into government and policymaking, in which fundamental misunderstandings of reality have immediate and real-world consequences.

These errors feed right back into the educational system when government officials and other policymakers decide to allocate government funding to support one line of research over another. Climate change is the poster child for this situation.

About two decades ago, academics began to come to grips with the shortcomings of their map of academic disciplines causing well-known universities to embark upon the path of ‘interdisciplinarity.’

Although the underlying motivation was good, the results have been very modest. The false hope that interdisciplinarity alone would forge a path to better educational outcomes hit hard against the wall of methodological incongruities between the disciplines—in particular, between categories of disciplines, such as science and religion.

Accordingly, interdisciplinary discourse often has been weighed down by people speaking essentially different languages, even when they often are all communicating in English. This is because people who gravitate to one discipline as opposed to another often are coming from such ontologically different worldviews that they find themselves hard-pressed to surmount methodological disagreements—precisely because their methodologies they follow in their respective pursuits of knowledge already reflect their pre-existing worldviews, which they most often do not question. Interdisciplinary conversations therefore often reach a certain point and never quite go beyond that. In order truly to move ahead, human beings must work at a more fundamental ontological level to examine the perception and parsing of reality itself.

 

Perception of reality

Certainly, it goes without saying that if human beings do not perceive reality correctly—or even well—then their responses to the actual reality in which they are immersed will be maladaptive.

This is an urgent call mandating that human beings must strive to create the very best knowledge cartography and disciplinary map that they can so fundamental misperceptions do not reverberate and become amplified in the human knowledge-action system as a whole. Perceiving reality well and drawing our disciplinary maps correspondingly well will promote the survival of the species, and it also will promote growth in consciousness so that human beings will feel that living life is a meaningful experience.

Here, perception and the lived, felt experience of meaningfulness intersect directly. This is critically important to the pursuit of joyful lives as individuals and so that joy can manifest more fully in human society as a whole.

 

‘Recognition Event’

At the end of the day, political regimes will come and go, governments will rise and fall, and yet we are still human beings thinking our human thoughts. But, by stopping to consider just how advanced other intelligent species may be, human beings can be challenged to think much more creatively and, also, openly. With this scenario we can state currently we have a ‘Recognition Event’ this is the most consequential Black Swan in human history.

This is real, this is happening now, and this will change everything. Already, some governments and corporations have taken the next steps of UAP seriously which hopefully will catalyse such creative thought, and in particular, to challenge human beings to become eventually much more intelligent as a species themselves. Reflecting upon and discussing the possibility that another species is more intelligent may provide human beings with just the opportunity they need here, since our natural self-respect as a species may catalyse us to do our best to make the best presentation of ourselves as we can whenever Contact occurs.

Recent official acknowledgement of the reality of UAP accelerates the relevancy of our thought experiment. Academics can start now trying to think in a more fluid, creative, and enlightened manner about how to organize human knowledge and how to redraw our disciplinary maps. Accordingly, we need to consider the following interrelated questions:

◼ How would contact with advanced, intelligent, non-human impact the core disciplines, such as physics, mathematics, history, etc.?

◼ How would it impact the organizational map of academic disciplines as a whole?

◼ Would disciplinary boundaries become more or less fluid?

◼ Would the standard categorization of disciplines into the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities—indeed, the tripartite organizational scheme utilized here cease to be meaningful, or would its status as a useful way of organizing human knowledge be diminished in any way?

◼ Would certain core disciplines begin to merge?

◼ Would knowledge systems that historically sometimes have been seen as divergent, such as ‘religion’ and ‘science,’ for example, begin to merge?

◼ How would the relationship between human life and advanced, non-human life forged during and after Contact change the way in which the academy relates to civil society?

◼ What other questions should we be asking?

Two meta-questions can be abstracted from these series of questions, above. One is the open-ended meta-question regarding whether human beings may be losing the forest for the trees as they increasingly specialize into more and more granular sub-disciplines in the academy.

Is this increasingly analytical parsing of reality useful, or not? It may not be merely that the disciplines have to come together—some of the meta-categories, i.e., ‘natural sciences, ‘social sciences,’ and ‘humanities,’ also may need to merge—or do they? What about categories such as ‘religion’ and ‘science,’ will they need to find a common,ontological ground?

Another meta-question is the extent to which analysis itself—highly touted as a hallmark of achievement in academic thinking—is helpful, or, at a certain point, not so much. In other words, are we losing sight of how aspects of reality cohere together because of such ever finer analysis, and how may missing the integrated, coherent nature of reality, be leading human beings away from the deeper reaches of knowledge, broadly understood?

Indeed, it may not be by means of ever further, analytical parsing of reality into smaller and smaller disciplinary sub-domains that we make the most progress. Instead, we may need to take a few deep breaths and consider going in exactly the opposite direction, by consolidating disciplines so that we do away with some of the lines between fields that may be holding us back.

Here, we are poised to ask whether we are artificially constraining our own creativity as thinkers because of excessive standardization of our academic disciplines. Do we need to set aside a little time for our minds—off to the prescribed exploration regions that have not even been mapped yet?

Does the behaviour of UAP suggest that the Intelligence responsible for them possesses the kind of creativity of thought that results in fluidity of motion through spacetime that is still out of reach for many human beings? If so, what can we learn

Or, do we need a strong and sturdy map to hold human civilization together? Would departing from our current disciplinary map somehow risk tearing at the fabric of human society as we know it, at a time that seems exceedingly precarious? Is our disciplinary map the one thing holding the world together?

Finally, is there some combination of approaches, so that a certain degree of adventurous, cognitive outside the box thinking can be knit back into the fabric of an ever-changing disciplinary map? These and many other questions surely arise when we anticipate an encounter with an advanced, non-human Intelligence— extraterrestrial or otherwise—that may approach knowledge formation very differently than human beings do. What an exciting eventuality!

While this poses a wonderfully challenging thought experiment for academics and others—how would we think about creating, organizing, and transmitting human knowledge reorganizing our disciplinary maps differently if faced with an advanced Intelligence operating in and around Earth — this may not be a thought experiment at all.

There is an evolving amount of knowledge gaining ground of the UAP within circles of serious interest that is now providing information that currently exists on UAP and how we might approach it and new information that is gleaned methodologically.

Authorities have assumed the reality, not only of UAP but of an advanced, sophisticated Intelligence (capitalized here when I mean to denote a non-human Intelligence) responsible for their operation on and around Earth.

The information we have already supports this assumption, and thus we need to consider what steps humankind can take to further its creative assimilation with this Intelligence—including, importantly, coming to a better understanding of its motivations, values, and intentions with respect to humankind.

There is considerable information by some governments supporting the conclusion that the Intelligence does not want human beings to continue along the nuclear path on Earth and is particularly concerned that nuclear weapons and other technologies not be brought into space. It is a warning we must take very seriously, and that human beings must take steps immediately to reverse their direction away from nuclear weapons and other nuclear technologies.