The Oxford Protocol : Modules


(relates to Stuckness)

In the beginning, one apotheosis among many others over the past several millennia … . Teilhardt de Chardin dreamed of a numinous noosphere as the endpoint of human evolution – we move from individual to social to planetary consciousness as stages in our collective journey.   Appositely, de Chardin was a Jesuit – a Society which, it is claimed, was the world’s first multinational.  Not only would the noosphere emerge as a natural result of pan-evolution, it would also be created through the work of the Society of Jesus as an ‘order’ which would extend itself throughout the world.   In the beginning, as Hesiod reminds us, the world was without form – as it gains form through universal evolution, the laws of nature become reliable habits and consciousness creatively unfurls.

And then there were two.  The singular Singularity shibboleth is that we can merge into a global cybernetic machine wherein – as with de Chardin – we can collectively become much greater than the sum of the individuals who are its parts.  There was an exquisite nightmare of a book written in the 1960s entitled As Man Becomes Machine.  It heralded a world where our fleshy, fallible parts wasted away to be replaced by cybernetic machinery – until finally we would achieve stainless steel immortality.   This was a continuation of Butler’s dream from nowhere, Erewhon, which argued that each new technology was a prosthesis which was ultimately part of us – for Babbage, we could hear right back to the sermon on the Mount.  Telescopes could make us see further, and ear trumpets allow us to hear softer.  Unlike the Jesuit’s story which has the substantial falling away to reveal our eternal incorporeal soul as part of the cosmic all, the substantial would be metasomatized into eternal living machine, a miraculous infrastructure containing us all without maintenance.  An actualization of Babbage’s dream of the ‘great and gifted of all ages’ speaking to each other in real time, without the unnecessary medium of print.

And now there are three; the last a little less optimistic. As we have gotten into the business of the management of nature and society since the early Anthropocene and more spectacularly since the industrial revolution, we’ve been bringing everything into synch – getting nature and society to march to a single drum through the instrumentality of constant surveillance and good business techniques.   We don’t need either to get more intelligent, expansively or singularly: all we need is to align the behavior of both nature and culture in such a way as to be maximally productive across the board.  Alignment happens not as a willed outcome from set of reasoning beings (the Enlightenment fades softly into the sunset) but as the only possible solution to a set of local and global crises.  This could be called the ant (not ANT) outcome: we render our environment sufficiently intelligent that we do not need to hold memory in our heads – we just follow the prompts from our chemically (ants) or informationally (people) enhanced environments.  The ultimate good here is not collective intelligence or the eternal preservation of individual genius, but the general sense that things are going right … or rather we are constantly averting the danger that things will go badly by following the traces.

As the word ‘progress’ disappears into the Western sunset, it is becoming vital to reconsider ‘purpose’.


Oxford Group, January 2014: Academy Turned Inside Out | Apotheosis | Core Technology | The Dedisciplinary Environment | Explanatory/Descriptive? | Fiction | Good Explanation | Mediation | Platform | Polemic | Portal | Problems | Protocol | Protocol (II) | Search*/Know* | Sciences/Humanities | Stuckness | Threshold Effects | Topology | Touchstones