I stumbled upon universal template theory in 1967 while trying to make sense of social anthropology. Making sense of making sense when 'sense' was what you made of it was a riddle solved in a flash by the notion of 'template'. Now they are everywhere...
We are at a bottleneck moment n human history, where too many of us are trying to fit within the next time window of 30 years – the time when it will ever make sense or not….
It is the characteristic of ‘worm holes’ as depicted by Kip Thorne that they take a fantastic amount of energy to hold open.
The window that I suggest is being held open these next thirty years which may make the future possible is the economic cycle, which as it is does not make sense and would implode without intervention. I suggest this fiction is deliberately maintained and bequeathed to the future over thirty years of mutual adjustment and the evolution of new currencies.
This is the essential task of COP 26, the at least tacit recognition of a mutual predicament and a global solution. However the agenda designed to be implemented over 30 years may yet be imperceptible by many members of our communities who will be brought up with an expectation that things could not have been otherwise.
And a bi product of all this ferment of activity could be the birth of a new health record currency which would enable aid donors and individuals to circumvent governments for their target populations and make care directly accessible to the masses.
Gaia heal thyself, there’s yet time
May the younger generation catch hold of the flame
The transformation from a world with a deepening tragedy and on or just over the brink of disaster to a world healed and viable will need a process of guided evolution. There is no time to let this happen by itself, it must be facilitated. We now have the pre-conditions for that facilitation.We can use the historic opportunity of the Covid 19 virus pandemic as a catalyst to achieve it. Only stand back enough to see this. It is hard in the midst of a pandemic to get the necessary spatial and temporal distance from a crisis that is engulfing us.
I would like to suggest an approximate time table for a solution. I have called this process the ‘computation’ and that it should be followed by a celebration. The timing of it becomes clearer as the ecological predicament becomes clearer. The timing is sensitive to our immediate context, and that suggests that reversing and stabilising climate change, transitioning to renewable energy, and stabilising and sustaining the world’s human population must all be done in about twenty or thirty years. The year 2050 is crucial. We should have a global party then..
The changes are too great to be achieved all at once. There is no power on earth that can impose a new economic and social regime globally without releasing at the same time immense destruction, and now with the pandemic there probably is not the resource for any single agency to it. However we can gather the strands for a potential multi dimensional tapestry and put them in the same time slice with a conference. Likely such a conference or series of conferences may occur when there is no alternative, when mega death is already in the open and the global predicament is clear. Restarting global economies after the lockdown is the right moment, it needs to happen now.The project might have 3 phases:
Recognition of the need for a global solution to all these crises which are coming of age at the same time: pandemic, population, pollution, mass extinctions, etc.
A ‘holding pattern’ to recreate the prosperity which was lost with the pandemic, but not through blind economic forces but by act of will. I call this ‘the computation’, and we are going into it right now.
the goal of the ‘celebration’ as a device or model to aim for, due to mature in 30 years. This substitutes a ‘party’ as an alternative to certain doom might be an achievable belief for oncoming generations.
The 30 years of the ‘computation’ are envisaged as facilitated co-evolution. There must be recognition that the ‘currencies’ of celebration are culturally defined and that they evolve. However some currencies exist already, for example the HTTP protocol and JSON script and other evolving artefacts in the technical world of coders and software engineers are already a shared currency, and a health care currency FHIR is in rapid evolution. There are many other established international standards. There is already the idea of ‘targets’ for nation groups to aim for with reducing carbon emissions. Cultural realms of value independent of the material base have a strong foundation in human history, material wealth being unachievable through most of human pre history. More are needed now and some curious ones are indeed emerging, not all as we might like (such as QAnon), but ‘out there’ none the less. A transfer of resources from first and second to third worlds can be a bi product of preparation for the ‘celebration’. I suggest a slogan: “all the seed gets through” as a promise and motivator for the young, as the generations step through this period of time.
Let’s plan for a global Celebration in 2050. Instead of a catastrophe we can envisage a cornucopia. The next 30 years are there for us to prepare for the ‘coming of age’ of the human race. Present day 30 year olds will be 60, 20 year olds 50, and I will be 103. To be young then will be heaven, but those generations which will inherit the earth are as yet unborn.
Our species is about one hundred thousand years old. There were many false starts. Modern genetics has found some surprises including the discovery of ancient cross breeding events between our ancestors and other lineages of man, now extinct. However present evidence is that human origin was out of Africa, in more than one migration, but with the traces of these ancient events still evident in the dispersal of our genes over the earth.
The spread was wide in time and space and the narratives together with the ideas that backed them up were very diverse. As of the present, they have the aspect of fragmented strands, each trying to pursue its own identity and perpetuation, although especially now with the global virus pandemic (April 2020) there is huge uncertainty both at the individual national levels as to the viability of the social and cultural models that vied for existence prior to the January 2020 outbreak.
With the new communication technologies developed in the last fifty or so years, we are thrown into an uncompromising simultaneous co-presence. Everyone in the world is present visibly and audibly at the same time; and it’s not making sense. Quite clearly our trajectory is that of implosion, or explosion, depending on your metaphor. The virus pandemic has simply brought it on, brought forward a looming catastrophe that was going to happen anyway. All those graphs, of population, resource utilisation, climate change, pollution, extinctions cannot continue exponential for long.
I modelled a future plan in 1977 after I had finished reviewing Paul Bouissac’s book on circuses (link). It was a ‘vision’, in the sense of a visual mode model. This vision was of a way through for all of us. It comprised first of an acceptance of the diversity of present day ‘states of play’ or cultural predicaments in global cultures. Then leaders in those groups should help identify ‘goals’ for the next thirty years and indeed some have been implemented already. The carbon emission targets aim for a defined time frame. Commitment to a few more internationally defined goals could then act like ‘tickets of entry’ into a global conference which aims to set up a period of time which I called ‘the Computation’. In that time goals could be aligned globally and new currencies evolved, and resources rationalised, in a process of simultaneous co-evolution.
THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
The ‘entry configuration’ would go through a period of evolutive change until the ‘exit configuration’, which I imagined as a ‘party’, quite literally a global celebration. We come from far away by our own reckoning, but our species is young compared with nearly all others, and dates from only a hundred thousand years ago. We are now all over the world, and are now all wanting to fit through the small space time window, of the next twenty to thirty years. I called the diagram the Eye of the Needle as a metaphor for this, and I apologise for the ageing graphics..I was thirty five years too early, but maybe it’s time now to make the journey from vortex to cornucopia.
The basic tools humanity will need to evolve over the next thirty years included file are listed in the bottom right hand border of the diagram. They are: Material adequacy, sophisticated technology, and the Currencies of celebration. The FHIR project is one such currency, and the technology is getting there, but material adequacy is severely lacking in a world beset with a pandemic, wars, famines, and extreme climate changes. Here is an image of the computation diagram seen as a ‘worm hole’ or void in space time through which one might conceivably pass to get to entirely different universes. the transition ‘calamitous vortex’ to ‘cornucopia’ is one such transition.
In 1980 I wrote my review of Paul Bouissac’s Circus and Culture which was published in Semiotica magazine. (link). I had met Paul at a conference in Cardiff Wales in 1976 when I had delivered a paper entitled ‘Mirth Measurement a New Technique’. This was the first report on my project on Speech with Movement, which had the avowed goal of working on the biological basis of personal understanding. This had led me from studying static faces , to studying a particular conversation which I recorded at a crucial session in 1976. I contrived to get a 4 eyed view of two students chatting, wired up to devices to allow print outs of fundamental frequency voice movements and head movements. The temporal detail was one tenth of a second and the vocal and kinesic traces were aligned so that the result was a kind of musical score, with separate tracks for nose movement, fundamental frequency, phonetic analysis and then the words in natural language..
I had got as far as realizing that the integration of speech and movement within and between people was absolute, and rhytmic entrainment and synchronies were often exact. I called the activity my subjects were engaged in an ‘evolving model’. I was intrigued by the melodies both vocal and kinesic. Paul told me that the material I was working on was a ‘text’. The puzzle was, how could the activity on screen have the logical form of a text, while actually being the behaviour that was the text? I hit upon the notion of projection to express how it made sense both to the participants and the theorist if I assumed that they were throwing themselves forward in time, projecting outcomes, and then pulling themselves along the melodies to get there. ‘Projection’ and ‘Intention’ are concepts that compete for the same spot in expressing this facility that we have, but the choice of word has different theoretical implications downstream in the arguments.
Reviewing Paul’s book was one of my major projects because it meant going back over the material that had got me going in the first place, namely the structuralist perspective in social anthropology. I had been captivated in particular by the work of Mary Douglas, anthroplogist at University College London. I had gone to her at the start of my project and she had set me up with my grant from the UK Social Science Research Council. this enabled me to follow my own nose but this was greatly facilitated by contact with New Zealander John Kirkland, then a PH student recently transferred from Missouri to the London Institute of Education.
This institute had a 4 headed video tape recorder, an innovation which allowed stable single frames. It lived in the store room operated by Peter Jobbins, store master, and he very kindly let me in to use it whenever I wanted. With Paul’s concept of ‘text’, and ‘trajectory’ and my own background in medicine I tried to directly see a way through for describing what the brain was doing at least on the micro level when generating text in dyadic interaction. Laughter was simply a convenient discrete phenomenon that I could identify on the tapes and model with a cognitive event of a Necker Cube flip. ‘Mirth Measurement’ was simply the literal physical transcription of a couple of shared laughs, a demonstration of synchrony, entrainment, and the ‘uncontrol’ of mirth in comparison to the very detailed choreography of ‘speech with movement’.
I was impressed with tPaul’s depiction of a circus performance as a ‘semiotic crucible’. I was familiar from the structuralist work of the liminal phase of ritual, of the three phase structure common to all ritual behaviour: separation, aggregation, re incorporation as identified by Van Gennep in his 19C work ‘Rites of Passage’ (les ‘Rites de Passage’). In the liminal phase, social roles would get inverted, and the major cultural categories of the people targeted by the circus would be ‘hung out to dry’ so to speak, made visible, tested, and in the end re confirmed when the world is restored despite the disturbance deliberately introduced by the circus acts. As Paul put it, a circus would once or twice a year punctuate the otherwise more homogenous texts of the current social reality of the group. He termed it a ‘semiotic crucible’ because these social currencies would be refined, redefined, and set up again in process that in some respects mimicked an alchemist’s efforts to transform elements into valuable alleles. A circus or indeed other cultural performance was an opportunity to revise and restate cultural norms, and resolve or address contradictions and failures in the extant culture.
From the perspectives of both then and now, the world appeared to be entering a firestorm of cultural and political upheaval, fired by resource over exploitation and population growth. Already in 1977 the graphs were going exponential, and clearly a crisis was looming. When I finished the review, I found myself carrying on to address the global problem. Our story, the human story, was and is headed for calamity. This has become immediate now with the Corona virus outbreak, global warming, the reality of one third of the world population on the poverty line (this before Covid 19), and continuing exponential graphs for all kind of global parameters, extinctions, migrations, rising sea level, and now global pandemic. The summary statement of my review of Paul Bouissac’s book was done as art work – a cartoon- by my cousin Nick Meyer. It shows the text of everyday life represented by a male and female figure, interlinked, leaving a story behind them among frozen memories, made up of the architecture and technology they live with. But they were going to a circus, a semiotic crucible, where their cultural categories might have an opportunity to be displayed, examined, and re defined. When the text resumes, after the circus, it may be quite different as a result of the experience.
The Computation model is an outline for a kind of circus in which are categories can get redefined and our global institutions set on a new and viable course. It needs to start almost straight away, since the Corona virus epidemic has brought forward the crisis to the immediate present.
The figurines in the circus ring are stylised to emphasise that they are carefully chosen cultural forms, precisely ordered for rhetorical effect, as Paul put it. There’s a performing seal, a tiger, an acrobat and his shadow. But at the exit to the ring there are clowns, the white faced clown announcing his dishevelled companion the gross rude clown, ushering in the new world order. That is where we are at globally right now. We have to work with it.
There are a host of terminologies trying to make the point I am making here, and numerous ‘spiritual’ approaches as well. Where do the simple assertions of universal template theory fit among the cacophony of paradigms, claims and causes which occupy this space. Arguably, this is the heart of the matter, the heart of all the matters that matter.
In brief, I am terming all self fulfilling prophecies, schemas, ontologies, and projective plans ‘templates’. They share the characteristic that they impose form on a substratum and then self replicate in some way. They have to have the right number of dimensions to fit onto the substratum they model, plus more to make them controlling of outcomes in their dimensional niche.
We live in a four dimensional world, yet have a definite limit to subjective understanding of up to about seven dimensions, plus or minus two (ref). Here I am interpreting the word ‘dimension’ in the sense of ‘variable’ in the modelling of a process. (ref) Although we clearly can model in as many dimensions as we like with the aid of computers, there is a limit to subjective understanding which is well attested .
It is my contention that when we act, we enlist more dimensions in our modelling activities needed for planning the action than we can intuit. This means that the source of our action has to be opaque to us. It is experienced as ‘direct action on the present’ and is well attested in numerous religious orders, It may be the basis of spiritual insights in diverse religions. It is a central reality of human existence, a design fault, and when properly understood as being a dimensional matter, has wide explanatory power including a theory of speech melody which is ‘non dual’.
Backing this interpretation up unequivocally with science is harder, since it is a paradigm shift and other explanations jostle for attention in the mind -body debate. At the same time it’s obvious. I came across it while studying human interaction. I had done a frame by frame analysis of people chatting informally, and was at a loss to know how to theorise about the melody of speech, which was purported to fulfil so many functions at the same time. These included phenomena such as grammatical parsing, disambiguation, ’emotion’, emphasis etc. I needed a paradigm shift and this came to me in the realisation that the melodic forms made sense in the context of the immediate future of the interaction. My participants were projecting outcomes from their present moments and controlling or attempting to control their shared conversational predicament with the melodic shapes in their song. (insert links).
This blog is ‘work in process’, but it is going to include at some stage discussion of the concepts of ‘intention‘ and ‘projection‘ in relation to text analysis. Text analysis is the scientific discipline that already exists for trying to understand what happens when people talk, at all levels, acoustic, through linguistic, psychological, and physiological variables, and in terms of outcome control and brain science. To summarise and compact all this down to a simple statement, I suggest that ‘intention’ and ‘projection’ are two words describing the same reality, which is our ability to project onto spacetime models of more dimensions than there are on the plane we live on, which means more than four. With our computer modelling, we can have any number of dimensions we like when we model some process in our attempts to control it.
I suggested an explanation for melodic shapes, which is the completion or partial completions of models (link). The melodies are actually the trajectories between stable states in the brains of the participants, and they achieve the mirroring of States of Affairs between the participants. They are quite literally the trajectories of that co ordination.
This formulation actually pulls the secure rug from under us, since it opens up a pandora’s box of possibilities. High Template is my name for the debate about that, about the argument in the philosophy of science (and philosophy generally) on the status of our concepts and models in relation to the external reality they purport to represent. My argument will end with an assertion: we project our realities moment by moment, but are also always caught at the advancing edge of time, always making a construct, but our construction extends right into the most minute details of our physiology. However it is radical doubt that can keep us on the advancing edge ‘without hindrance in the mind and therefore no fear’.
This image from my notebook in 1977 summarises the concepts, and although the image is old and tattered I will explain the concepts using it rather than make a new one. However an image of the cosmological concept of a ‘wormhole’ is a good metaphor for the transformation that I envisaged then, and is apt just now in May ’21 too.
“The Eye of the Needle” refers to a period of time, the next thirty years or so, which is the narrow time gap the human race has to get through to survive. We approach this time from a hundred thousand years away – or however long the latest estimate of the age of our species is. It’s taken that long to evolve us, distribute us over the world, have us mess it up in the sense of use up its resources and pollute it. If we hit it just right we could get through, but not as we are going, virus or no virus.
The different human conditions or ‘cultures’ are represented as ‘strands’ in the illustration above, given “goals” for this demonstration. The idea here is that each cultural and sovereign group has a goal or planned trajectory that would make it carbon neutral and viable over the next thirty years. These cultural groupings may need adjusting where they at present conflict with national and political boundaries. Brexit may be considered the result of such a late and recent adjustment. Each group must authentically represented its client populations, and there is some way to go before political and economic boundaries are re drawn to permit this. In fact, old political squabbles may become irrelevant as the future takes hold.
Coming as they do from different time warps not to mention different locations, the defacto reality is that we are all compacted together ‘at the same time’ on planet earth but have yet to fully awaken to this new reality. A ‘Celebration’ party would formalise this new reality and kick start a new world order. It could also be a sneaky way to implement the 2015 commitment to ‘end global poverty by 2030’.
The ‘Celebration’ is an idea like a meme that might take hold on the youngest generations coming on stream. They would need drive it, over a few few generations, and overturn the strategies of their own ascending generations to maintain the status quo. There is a very real sense in which the Corona virus pandemic of 2020 has done that for them, for us, and at a stroke has destroyed the institutional structures of the previous status quo. However the’ meme’ of a global celebration must take hold really soon if it is to do its work in time. The work it must do is to substitute for exploitation of the material environment as the main driver for global economies in the short to medium term.
The way to engage the ascendant generations is to make a promise: ‘all the seed gets through’, which is the assurance that their group members can indeed expect to be able to reproduce their kind in the post celebration world. The entire genetic stock of humanity in all its diversity must carry forward into the post ‘celebration’ worlds and beyond. We cannot afford as a species to lose any of it.
. This diagram is taken from my notebook entry in early Arpil 1977. The context for it was that I had just finished reviewing Paul Bouissac’s book ‘Circus and Culture’ for ‘Semiotica’ magazine run by Thomas Sebiok of Indiana University. (insert link) This was my major statement on uniting Natural and Social Science, Universal Template theory as mediated through the accounts of the circus put together by Paul Bouissac who I had met at the conference on Humour and Laughter in Wales. After the review, which I titled ‘the Melody of the Text’, I went on to look at the text fragments in the video tape I had taken of two people chatting in 1976. This half hour long conversation recorded on 4 head videotape with acoustic and movement paramaters recorded in hard copy down do 1/10 second detail was my principal research datum. I was annalysing fragments from it in ultimate detail by a technique I called the ‘temporal microscope’, although I did not invent that term. There will be a link to this work later on as my project unfolds. All my papers on the topic at that time were entitled ‘the melody of the text’, because the kinesic and vocal movement trajectories were so prominent in the data. They were indeed intertwined melodies.
After I had finished Paul’s review (see link) I kept going on the problem which had inspired me to ‘go for the big one’, the search for organic basis of brain and behaviour. It seemed urgent to have a general theory. I wanted to ‘get there’ in one shot by staring out the faces on the video. This was a kind of ‘mission impossible’. .I thought it worth trying because of the impending global ecological and population catastrophe which was so clearly predicted from the exponential graphs visible even then back in the 1960s and 1970s.
“The Species pick up its ears”
I drew out these graphs after I had finished Paul’s review, to demonstrate the need for some sort of technological and social revolution if those graphs were to flatten off without catastrophe. I foresaw three scenarios from a 1977 perspective.
The first was the ‘do nothing’ solution, which I though would lead to Mega death followed most likely by nuclear warfare, and then the dwindling of our species and its populations to a pathetic remnant.
The second scenario I foresaw was Mega death again but then some sort of wound bringing the realisation that there would have to be a technological and social revolution to keep the curve flat and stable, but this achieved under duress with great suffering.
The final scenario was a pre emptive scenario and suggested that somehow population and resource management strategies could result in a technological and social revolution that manages to flatten the graph to a steady state and with a much reduced wound to humanity. Also there is the promise made to the young people that and all the seed gets through in all its diversity.
I think we have leap frogged to scenario 2 with the present epidemic and the damage it has done to what was evidently a fragile global economy. I suggest that this is the wound which should make us proceed without delay now to The Computation and Celebration.
This is where I end up, with earnest and urgent advocacy for a real time global celebration in 2050. Why then? because it’s time enough, and manageable from 2020. I mean, the schedule is relaxed, unlike the UN agreement to eliminate global poverty by 2030.
This agreement, cited by the UN Secretary recently as still valid, would involve massive transfer of resources between rich and poor nations. He pointed out that at this time of huge challenge to the resources of wealthy countries from the Covid 19 epidemic, a wealth transfer to poor nations will be unpopular. He nevertheless said that global eradication of the virus was the only viable option, and that the health of all of us was as fragile as the weakest member. Therefore our only hope of salvation as a species was just such a massive transfer of resources, and that it should indeed occur just now to help them upgrade their ability to fight Covid 19..
In the short to medium term, by which I mean five to 30 years, such a transfer will be necessary to avert mega death. However all these changes are overwhelming and without some kind of future vision, it will be hard to entrain our populations in such agendas. The pandemic does bring things forward as far as achieving at a stroke both general acknowledgement of the need for urgent intervention and controlling measures to facilitate human survival, and the concept of ‘lockdown’ with its demonstration of the success of the virtual world is certainly an essential tool.
Historically, and as was shown in the anthropological studies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people lived in ‘separate silos’ of different cultural worlds and rules, but they always contained some definitions of ‘how things are’ in that universe. These shared cultural models act like ‘targets’ for behaviour and acting them out determines valid from invalid action in everyday life. The absence of them is experienced as ‘anomie’, purposelessness, depression and unstable identity crisis. However all such local ontologies are ALL inventions, in the sense of self validating models.
We desperately need another one just now. That’s where ‘the Celebration’ comes in. We need a five dimensional process model of our present predicament which could have a beneficial ‘outcome,’ and a road map just a little way beyond. Such is the ‘Celebration ‘ concept for the birth of the new world order.