In casually thinking over the pluralist work, as I’ve been doing this past week, I’ve realized that I can push the exploration one more step without too much work. This post should be brief.
Let’s start with the commonsense distinction between living things and non-living things. By the kinds of arguments Jane Bennett has advanced in Vibrant Matter that distinction seems questionable as given. Considering the strange world of quantum mechanics and the self-organizing turbulence of complex dynamics and other such things, plain old stuff seems more dynamic, more vibrant, than is seemed to, say, Descartes. What I did when, using more poetry than reason, I declared the universe to be alive, I simply invested life in the whole universe, not simply in the earth’s biosphere. In that formulation, the universe was alive even before life, as we think about it, appeared on earth, or anywhere else (if life has indeed arisen elsewhere).
The universe was, and is, abundant. It thus evolves.
Yet, if the life/non-life distinction isn’t quite what common sense makes it out to be, still, there is a distinction of some sort to be made. There is a difference between the biosphere and, say, the Moon or the Sun. What I want to say is that, when life as we call it arose on earth, the abundance that had made the cosmos as a whole a living thing, had now become invested in (incarnated in) the biosphere considered as a small component of the universe as a whole.
Thus the Arena of Life became a compact region within the cosmos and is to be differentiated from the Arena of Matter, though the two Arenas are physically intermingled. Let’s call this focusing, this distillation, this compaction, the Abundance Principle.
That’s what makes abundance so abundant. Over time abundance can evolve its full capacities into but an aspect, a facet, a region, of the totality.
Through another working of the Abundance Principle, the Arena of (Human) Culture has become differentiated from that of Life, though they are physically intermixed. Now we have three Arenas:
I have conjectured that we are on the cusp of a Fourth Arena. I have no special term for it nor do I see any urgent need for one. For now, let be
The Fourth Arena
But what is it like, what is its substrate, how does it differ from, beyond, Matter, Life, and Culture? That’s what I think all the chatter about the internet, the singularity, artificial life, nanotechnology, cyborgs, and so forth is about. I don’t see “intelligent” computers in either the near or mid-term. Long-term, who knows? But even without exotic brain computer interfaces and such, computing is allowing us to do amazing stuff, amazing in all three existing Arenas: Matter, Life, and Culture.
That’s what the Fourth Arena is about, the intermingling of Matter, Life, and Culture though advanced digital and analog electronics and through nanotechnology. That’s where the Abundance Principle is focusing, compacting, distilling, and recombining.