Preface to collected writings in meta-technology
© Henry A. Flynt, Jr.
Meta-technology took shape as I went over the same ideas again and again, broadening them while trying to make them more incisive. In 1977, I wrote “Superseding the Life-World—A Heuristic Discussion.” Without having the label meta-technology or a syllabus of meta-technology, I sketched why cognitive nihilism needs a meta-technology. Today I would classify this piece with my “facile transition to radical unbelief” pieces (see below).
Sometimes a review of old documents for which I am responsible surprises me. It turns out that I issued the original prospectus for meta-technology under the title “A Priori Neurocybernetics,” August 1978, subsuming the branches of meta-technology under a priori neurocybernetics. This was at a time of intense discussions with Hennix. I was responding to Hennix’s Toposes & Adjoints—and pursuant to that, I called this project, which furnished “Superseding the Life-World” with a syllabus, a new science. Already, I was talking about “why intellectualize life at all.” (I had written “Proposal for a Geniuses’ Liberation Project” in 1975, and Hennix had read it.)
The next month, I wrote a long essay on the crisis in physics. At the end, I repeated the syllabus from “A Priori Neurocybernetics.” Now the apparatus of a new science was even more pronounced, and the reflections on “why intellectualize life?” were expanded. I reframed the scheme to drop a priori neurocybernetics down among the branches.
In October 1979, I coined the label meta-technology for the purposes of my lecture “From Fundamental Philosophy to Meta-Technology.” So the rubrics preceding meta-technology were a priori neurocybernetics and new science.
What of the 1978 “Crisis in Physics” manuscript? I produced a series of manuscripts on physics which used the rhetoric of “crisis” and “stagnation” and “revolution.” As to the just-emerging meta-technology, I bundled it with the stray thoughts of Yessenin-Volpin and Hennix on physics, and spoke as if we were jointly offering to save physics from its crisis by submitting revolutionary alternatives. It was a considerable aspect of my work in those years.—And yet, thirty years later, it is evident that it was a tactical detour which confuses the issue if it is not understood as a detour.
Even as I was confusing the issue, I was building up the repertory of meta-technological contributions.
Thirty years after the fact, it seems ridiculous that I spoke of a crisis in physics, and linked myself with Volpin and Hennix as if we had three comparable plans to rescue physics. To be fair to me, the physicists were screaming that there was a crisis in physics in the 1970s. Wheeler wrote it into the magisterial textbook Gravitation (1973). Desperate as I was for external motivation, it does not surprise me that I took the physicists’ pronouncements as a signal to go on the attack. But today, it is all too obvious that this crisis was their crisis—in other words, their publicity stunt. It was an accredited hoax—legitimated charlatanism. They could revoke it whenever they wished—and in the meantime, the only saviors they wanted to hear from were their graduate students.
If the reader wants to review my paper trail carefully, he or she will find that “The Crisis in Physics” had qualifying statements on every page. From the outset, I made it clear that physics proceeds by fads, and that “the crisis” was a fad which could be cancelled at any moment.
Having said that, physics did turn a corner in the second half of the twentieth century. It is just that the publicists, Wheeler, Jastrow, et al., could not herald it honestly. Real difficulties of principle for physics did surface, such as whether the laws of “Nature” existed when there was nothing at all. (I can report from a personal encounter with Penrose at NYU that this question still made physicists wince toward the end of the century.)
The way physics extricated itself was comical. The difficulties of principle had come from supposed new “data”: the fact of the unique creation of the universe in finite past time; the interpretational question “who was the observer who collapsed the wave function of the creation event?” What the physicists did was to “abolish” these “data.” (Today, the phrase “the universe” is merely quaint, and in my writing, I replace it with the term Nature.) These fixes made it OK to forget the questions of principle.
Physics can always engender a fix from its own institutional momentum and keep grinding ahead. Again, to be fair to me, I said that in “The Crisis in Physics.” If there are questions they cannot answer, they can simply make them taboo.
There is another point about institutional customs which the student needs to understand. The physicists who discovered and taught the “facts” that were subsequently repudiated were never disgraced, nor did they apologize to the laity for having laid a false trail. If anything, their professional rewards became greater in later years. If you are already on the inside, you can be as wrong as you want to be if your falsehoods are to the advantage of the profession when you utter them.
Physics, then, is not required to have a methodological game plan for every descriptive statement or interpretational question that could conceivably be warranted by physical considerations. It only has to have a scientific method for what it believes at the moment. Believe in an eternal infinite universe, and it is permissible to be at a methodological loss relative to a finite universe—even though the Einstein theory made the latter a twentieth-century orthodoxy. Physics does not opt for a methodology of knowing, and then go out to find what decriptions, or interpretations of the mathematical machinery, are warranted. Physics opts for a world-description and an interpretation catch-as-catch-can; once those choices are made, they tell you the methodology of knowing, and you don’t look outside that methodology. (In fact, I heard Lawrence Krauss lecture in October 2005 to the effect that we live in the worst of all possible universes: the evolution of the universe progressively degrades our possibility of knowing, and may make life as such impossible.) The point is so profound that it is hard to grasp. The dog of fact precedes the tail of scientific method and wags the latter.
Then science’s boasts about its triumphs are only for the laity, and only pertain to projects on the human scale. In the large, there is no prior choice of method. The data, the world-description, credited at the moment forces the method on science. As it happens, science’s facts may expand the zone of unknowability. There is a lesson here which I give John Berndt credit for distantly anticipating. In the large, science may choke itself to death.
My “crisis-response” manuscripts on physics evinced a hope of recruiting adherents from the fringes of the scientific fraternity. At the beginning of the 1980s, Hennix and I willingly became a united front—because, after all, we wanted to promulgate our ideas by convincing the public that we were savants.
At that time, I tried to turn the stray thoughts of Volpin and Hennix about physics into discursive proposals to “improve” physics. Let me be careful here. As far as gaining a hearing, those proposals turned out to be hot air. However, as I already said, physics had said that it had a crisis. Moreover, the ideas of Volpin and Hennix were not unforgivable mistakes. In the era of infinitely many universes, perhaps they could be repackaged to be professionally permissible. But Volpin and Hennix never followed up, and the leading physicists were quite happy to hew to convention, as I shall now explain.
My unfinished 1986 piece, “The Recycling of Models in Physics” (to which “Grades of Inconsistency in Physics” is a valuable supplement), is the key to my view of the career of the institution. Schools of physics, we have learned, can make careers out of mere speculation. But the shape of that speculation must be as indicated in “Recycling.” Speculation has to ramify mathematical machinery which has already been successful, extending it with whatever was the latest thing in mathematics fifty years earlier.
“Nature” is rich enough to provide grist for this mill indefinitely. Physicists massage the master theories to elicit new effects. There will always be another mechanical effect. The mathematical machinery will always make the effect calculable. There will always be another apparatus to be built and another experiment to be performed.
No discrepancy matters unless the profession says you should worry about it. Physicists continue to emend the same master theories with “superpatches.” Discrepancies are taken as merely indicating the need for a new superpatch. The biggest theories may be untestable. Perhaps that only means that the length of the wait for a critical experiment is greater. Does positivist testabiity mean feasible tests? Today’s answer is no—it doesn’t matter if a theory has to wait a billion years to be tested. Once again, logical positivism has left a loophole which science has rushed through. All that is required is that there be a critical experiment in finitely many years. (Where have we heard that phrase?!)
Let me continue to take stock of my “crisis-response” manuscripts on physics. Meta-technology cannot be appreciated unless somebody has already been exposed to advanced modernist knowledge. But the qualification is that this exposure must not have made one a true believer. A lesson which must absorbed before meta-technology can even be mentioned is that the official reality is not common-sensical or manifest, not at all. It is not only counter-intuitive, but insanely incoherent. The shambles is held together by inferences, from an inconsistent subject-matter, on which unspoken controls are imposed to keep the inferences from becoming a chaos. I was pounding that theme in 1978.
To the extent that my appeals of the 1980s were an attempt to recruit science aficionados, they fell on deaf ears. Intellectual points which meant everything to me did not register with them. (Dennis Johnson’s “I wouldn’t worry about that.”) I began to grapple with the obduracy, if you will, in “Personhood and Subversion” (as originally titled, 1981). But even as I tried to find a framework in which to understand the obduracy, I continued to appeal to scientists as professionals for several more years.
Meta-technology is an enterprise whose justification is that it is intellectually possible. I am not sure that it is intrinsically more relevant to the physics profession than to dentistry. A qualification is in order. I may be able to learn much that is helpful to me by looking at the most pretentious or speculative side of the “hard” sciences. The physicsts are going to chase novelties that are good for the institution. In doing so, they may inadvertently disclose where they are vulnerable. But we do not learn where they are vulnerable by agreeing to the purpose for which their novelties are introduced.
My manuscripts of the period should, ideally, be rewritten to clarify what lessons are being offered. I did take the time to rewrite the 1978 “Crisis in Physics,” because it is key in the career of meta-technology. The rewriting was a delicate job that involved an inordinate amount of work. As for the other manuscripts, I don’t have time to fix them, so hopefully what I did to the 1978 “Crisis” essay will show how they should be construed. As well, the unfinished “Recycling of Models” needs to be finished. “Grades of Inconsistency” needs to be expanded and consolidated, especially to reflect my tutorial on thermodynamics with Mallah in 1999. Let us be cautious about what “Grades of Inconsistency” accomplishes. It is a compendium of what, for physicists, were unresolved clashes in their content. One had to be quite careful to say why a juncture was a contradiction, and not merely a weird fact. (It was a contradiction because it belied a proposition which had until then been an axiom.)
Let me resume with the role of the 1978 “Crisis” essay in thie career of meta-technology. As I intimated, it presented the syllabus for meta-technology a year before I coined the term. Because meta-technology didn’t exist yet, I compromised myself without even knowing that I was doing so. Envisioning a coalition with Hennix, I raised the slogan of “a new science” as a slogan that could cover
—Hennix’s Toposes & Adjoints (together with Hennix’s stray thoughts in conjunction with the “Algebras,” a gallery-exhibited art work which Hennix thematized in a cosmically pretentious way)
—what I would subsequently call meta-technology.
In furtherance of this approach, I tried to expound “a new science” in a way that could encompass all of it. But if it was a new science, it wasn’t meta-technology. The difference is stark. A new science produces a new dogmatic propositional portrait of nature. Meta-technology, insofar as I know where it is going, does not. So my slogan should have been not a new science, but a new mental mastery activity (with qualifications to exclude occultism). But the only purpose served by this formula would be to yoke meta-technology to new sciences, and that was the wrong thing to do. The only use of this formula, in fact, is to make the declarations of the 1978 “Crisis” essay allowable.
Pursuant to my discussions with Hennix and pursuant to the “Genuises’ Liberation Project,” the 1978 “Crisis” essay proceeded to a critique of modern life in conjunction with science as the dominant vision of impersonal reality.
My prospectus began on page 27 of the typescript. (I incorporated it wholesale in the 1979 manuscript that announced meta-technology.) The 1978 essay already speaks of the determination of reality embodied in the life-world [emphasis added]. Then all that is needed to obtain the definition of meta-technology is to prefix the phrase “has as its field of action.” The expression also tells you that the technical enterprise called science plays out in the life-world (as I called it then, borrowing Husserl’s phrase, while apologizing for doing so). Science might not care that it played out in a life-world. In meta-technology, that would matter.
My outline for my mental mastery activity came on pages 29-30. I grouped previous manuscripts under such headings as:
logic of contradictions
evaluational processing of experience
a priori neurocybernetics
Brief notes on these initial branches.
The logic of contradictions. My manuscripts in this branch are usually labelled as such.
Evaluational processing of experience pertaines to the “experience-world,” a “narrowing of the frame” of the “personal microcosm or personal totality.” (The reality-claims for “veridical waking experience” are suppressed, for example.) “The dream reality”: proposed in the “Geniuses’ Liberation Project” and in “Determination of an Objectivity by Reciprocal Subjectivity,” section IV. A later example would be “The Choice Chronology Project.”
A priori neurocybernetics. “A Priori Neurocybernetics” was a document in its own right, from August 1978. A piece prefiguring this discipline was “Subjective Propositional Vibration.” Two scientific authors, Globus and Smullyan, presented the thought-experiment of a mind-reading machine or “cerebroscope.” (In fact Globus envisioned it in conjunction with the folklore surrounding Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.) If a cerebroscope existed, it would be a mission of a priori neurocybernetics to furnish experiments for it.
I still remember that when I announced the above outline as if I were announcing a replacement for physics, Jackson Mac Low said that it was so feeble as to amount to a shaggy dog story. I now have two reactions to that. First, according to his lights, Mac Low was right. Again, meta-technology does not rescue today’s physics profession. In joining my 1978 commentary on the state of play in physics to my prospectus for meta-technology, I did myself a disservice. (Again, I have corrected that in rewriting the 1978 essay.)
On the other hand, I had something to say—to which Mac Low was blind (understandably). I was executing a pivot on the foundations of physics (physico-mathematical science). I always wonder if it is a mistake to give this analogy, but—think the introduction of zero as a number. A “mental device” which changes the way everything is done. (The qualification is that I do not validate the zero-concept; I am merely noting the part it played in getting hard science from the past to the present.)
To be more philosophic about it, meta-technology addresses the juncture at which the knower is an experiencing subject, for example—not a detection box. The juncture at which the knower subjugates the life-stream by imposing a conceptual apparatus on it. (E.g. identitarian logic and quantitative idealization.) The life-stream as a menace requiring subjugation is luridly evident in one of my favorite object-lessons, Tim Crane, “The waterfall illusion,” Analysis, 1988.
This juncture in foundations of science is one that “the scientist” has chosen to disregard. “Scientific thought” only reaches this juncture derivatively in neuropsychology. (Which means that the scientific consideration of the juncture is a vicious circle.)
Proceeding to the point when meta-technology got its name, I coined the term, as I said, in 1979. It is defined as technology whose field of action is the determination of reality. It arises by devolution: as the prevailing enculturation is viewed in the cognitive-nihilist perspective of “The Flaws Underlying Beliefs.” What makes a proposal recognizable as a contribution to meta-technology is that it breaks the framework of objectification. Meta-technology, let it be noted, is a broad family of junctures which are technical and have to be learned in their specificity, hands-on.
[Clarification: Those who learn English as a second language are told that ‘belief’ is a word specifically for propositions espoused without warrant. But I use the word for all espoused propositions. After all, to have to keep saying ‘espoused proposition’ is too cumbersome.]
Already in 1980, I outlined a book on meta-technology, to be called Manipulating the Determination of Reality. It opens with cognitive nihilism, and goes on to flesh out the three branches as best I could at the time. It also does something which in hindsight was a mistake: it includes my early 1960s intermedia works in which meta-technological insights first appeared or were prefigured for the first time. Notably “Concept Art” and the whimsically named Energy Cube Organism. And even the Perception-Dissociator to the extent that it became “The Perception-Dissociation of Physics”—and after that, a long series of pieces on the juncture at which the knower is an experiencing subject, and subjugates the life-stream by imposing a conceptual apparatus on it.
The problem is that to tell an unsympathetic public that “this juncture first saw the light of day in an art venue” becomes an excuse for dismissing it. We do not live in an age in which the art world will accept art which is honorably intellectually substantial. Notwithstanding, in 1987 I would do it again; I would revive concept art in order to have a product to sell (to be crude about it).
In the 1980 book proposal, I listed “Determination of an Objectivity” under a priori neurocybernetics. I thereby overlooked that the piece contained a major statement on the dream reality, section IV, which belongs to evaluational processing of experience. Already my branches were breaking down.
An important feature of the 1980 proposal is that I called for supporting hardware, what I would now call an epistemology laboratory. It was an obvious proposal, given the demonstrations meta-technology calls for—but I now know that it never had the slightest chance of receiving support.
in 1981, I attempted to explain meta-technology to non-technical readers (who might have an adolescent new-age background) at a time when specimens of meta-technology were much fewer than they would be later. “Introduction to Meta-Technology for Non-Scientists.” Reading it today, I cannot call it an embarrassment. Even if I am accommodating the reader, it is still an advanced read. It tells the adolescent New Age fan much that that fan will not want to hear. (I dilute the message to make it even more obvious to the uninitiated how forbidding it is.)
I produced another overview in 1982, “Revolution in the Cultural Determination of Reality.” Now I gave a little too much notice to the fads which had the public in their grip.
I have laid some false trails in the course of cultivating my ideas, usually as a result of contending with the public. One problem, just noted, is that some meta-technological junctures first saw the light of day in intermedia pieces shopped to the art public. There was another problematic development in the 1970s. Trying to illustrate, almost as a throwaway, what radical unbelief would mean, I produced pieces which rushed through the evaluational processing of experience as if it were a finger-exercise. “Walking Through Walls” and “The Flyntian Modality.” (At one point I did have a walking-through-walls dream, by the way.) It was, or seemed, facile—leaving an impression which needs to be corrected. (Indeed, with no frame of reference, somebody might interpret me as speaking of hearsay miracles. Already Laurie Spiegel made a joke about dematerializing and walking through a wall.) The 1977 “Superseding the Life-World” is also in this style.
Meta-technology depends, for example, on proprietary junctures (if you will). And unbelief, of itself, does not procure them for you, much less cross-potentiate them. It is silly to expect the transition to unbelief to be facile. That is why meta-technology is needed and why it is an integral phase of my perspective. Facile-seeming as the early 1970s pieces are, I cannot expect them to inspire the confidence in the reader which meta-technology deserves.
Upon ransacking my archive, the meta-technological manuscripts since 1978 turn out to be more numerous and more diverse than I remembered. The initial branches ceased to be important as compartments—although the logic of contradictions continues to be separately identifiable. (The goals associated with the initial branches remain entirely cogent.) My successive “discoveries” fell between the branches. I opened up meta-technology in several ways, as I will explain.
I found myself working in total isolation not only in the sense that other people could not contribute to meta-technology, but that they could not register that the enterprise was on offer. It is a feature of the civilization which I have addressed many times. To the intellectuals, science was simply it. (Give or take the “right” to defect from science in a self-serving way when “human” questions came up: the non-scientific books and other dispensations of Einstein serve as an example.) Science had ever-new conquests to its credit if those conquests were what you wanted. (Science in the large is actually an ignorance machine—but that is only an insight for the most sophisticated.) The suggestion that science was a myth accompanying a mere technology of matter—a fanatical mysticism of depersonalization—simply did not register with my hearers. They enjoyed slapping meta-technology aside. That not only left me without collegial stimulation; it left me without social respect. It meant that when people found out what I did, they told me that I had too much time on my hands.
Something began in 1980 which would bridge to the meta-technological enterprise. I commenced a new inquiry, called, awkwardly, personhood theory. Personhod theory, in the first instance, took as its subject the person-world, which has to be compared with the exprience-world. Both of these narrow the frame to the personal microcosm (or totality).
The experience-world contracts to a personal microcosm in which external reality-judgments regarding “my” experience are suspended. I have memories, not a past. Being inside a dream and being inside a waking episode are indistinguishable because there is no distinction in the moment.
[I wonder if the delimitation of the experience-world needs a lot more work. Is reading part of the experience-world? Is conversation part of the experience-world? In other words, is the appeal to written records to sharpen one’s memories part of the experience-world? Does looking at the date on your college diploma belong in the experience-world, and if so, what significance does it have? Well, that is what is special about language.
When you forget information (a datum), and then it comes back, whence your certainty that what comes back is what you had lost? The inner retrieval and corroboration. Is it part of the experience-world to break a memory block?
Merely to claim to understand language is a transcendent claim. What about giving commands to a dog? What about any interaction with other people? Maybe I need to say a lot more about what the frame is narrowed to.]
The person-world encompasses my received reality-judgments and my longitudinal thematic existence (and thereby my identity) as constituents of the microcosm to be dissected. Personhood theory acknowledges that usually I am on my way, finding my place among other people, bearing a personal history (and an ascribed identity), not only anticipating and choosing in uncertainty, but harboring ambitions and pursuing them for decades. (There is a level of self-concern here, i.e. in waking life, which I don’t find in my dreams. In my dreams, I am typically in a situation in which I am trying to cope in sombre and frustrating circumstances, but I don’t look beyond the immediate problems to ask what I am doing in the situation. Life is a set problem in my dreams; I don’t configure the problem.)
Personhood theory proposed to give the best possible explications of words such as ‘dignity’, leaving open whether or not these “conditions” would be called epiphenomenal.
To put it the other way around, what is susceptible to being demeaned or defiled? As authors before me have noted, mere matter (a limited quantity of it) cannot be shamed, because as such, it is not capable of nobility or honor. [Only as an object of our care can a limited quantity of matter be shamed. A further question: can science exist without the scientist revering Nature, without the scientist being in awe of Nature? All scientists believe that Nature is mercilessly greater than we. E.g. that Nature has grandeur but not personality. That notion places Nature at the border of dignity.]
Personhood theory situates a person’s espoused reality-picture in a field of motivations, thereby embarking on a non-intellectual epistemology. Some of my acquaintances thought that “humanism” was lowbrow; consequently they expressed suspicion of this turn in my work. (That does not mean that they did not demand that society treat them humanely. Their hypocrisy was sickening.) And yet those close to my development should have realized that the inquiry was demanded, or forced, by the reactions we were getting when we presented meta-technological considerations to “the educated.” (My “physics” lectures of 1987-88 served as a late example.) We had to delve into the myth to ask how the myth had fixated the mentality of “the educated.” Personhood theory’s answer, if there was one, was circular or scrambled causation.
If personhood theory had been a conformist delineation of subjecthood which only wanted to confirm common sense and science (in other words, if it had aspired to be a humanist theology), then it would indeed have been a step down. But I immediatly began to confront personhood theory with meta-technological issues—and in addition, with the points at which the starting point of personhood theory lacks credibility. (Personhood theory is implausible on native language fixation. It is implausible on the development of conciousness and personal identity from infancy.)
I quickly made the exposition of personhood theory devolutional. At the end of the first year, I “completed” personhood theory with a bridge to cognitive nihilism. (“Personhood’s Self-Cancellation,” 1981).
In 1983, I proposed an anthology of pieces on the theme “Personhood and Meta-Technology,” and wrote a lengthy introduction for the proposed anthology. It was premature. Only in 1985 did it begin to be evident how personhood theory might spur meta-technology. However, the 1983 proposal underlines that I was determined, early on, to confront personhood theory with meta-technology’s breaches of the framework of objectification.
The 1985 “Studies in the Person-World and Pre-Science” showed that considerations in personhood theory might provide leads to meta-technology. Here, §C focused on the juncture of the person-world seized on by meta-technology. §D offered meta-technological junctures inspired by person-world analysis. §E addressed physics; it never became a typescript, but prefigured “Superseding Scientific Apprehension” (1990). So there is indeed a bridge between the person-world as the arena of purposive behavior and of instilled habits and competences, and meta-technology as the recombination of the latter.
As to my 1991 personal narrative for Harvard, I thought I was ready to put some quips on record which would delineate the bridge from meta-technology to personhood theory (with economics thrown in for good measure). It, too, was premature. Some of my quips read like mere digs at the scientist (or the capitalist). Again, these quips did not inspire the confidence which the investigations behind them deserved.
“Critical Notes on Personhood” was started early on, c. 1981, but Part V, “Elevated Experience,” was not completed until 1993. The meta-technologist who looks in a mirror sees a person-world. For the meta-technologist, there is an identifiable person-world which is not the conventional one (since meta-technology progressively dissolves the latter). All the while, the meta-technological enterprise is purposive (by definition) and envisions a far future as well as a near one. (For me personally, the future in question now comprises three decades.) Talent and motivation are required which, so far, are vanishingly rare. You have to be cognizant of junctures people are not encouraged to notice.
Thus, neither the talent nor the motivation for meta-technology is merely copied from society. The meta-technologist is not made in the image of society. The purposive axis of meta-technology transcends the obtaining society. Concretely, meta-technology needs a long-term development to come to fruition. What is already secured has to be reconceived and built on, so that lessons which crop up unbidden are folded in.
If I am to hew to my convention that “more compromised” is “lower” (see “Uncompromising Positioning”), then personhood theory occupies itself below meta-technology and the experience-world.
A perspective on meta-technology may also consider what is “above” meta-technology, that is, cognitive nihilism. What we might want from cognitive nihilism is i) the just-mentioned “uncompromising positioning” texts, which directly address the presentation of meta-technological contributions, ii) material on radical unbelief and the experience-world. (Radical unbelief comes in at the end of “Is Incredulity Self-Defeating?”) Thus, a collection of readings on meta-technology might include a supplement on the (non-affirming) insights from which meta-technology devolves. For all that, meta-technology invokes the standard preparation of an educated person, and pivots on that; it does not demand a cognitive nihilist “awakening.” However, the stubborn disregard we encounter suggests that without being detached from the conventional moorings to some degree, the audience will simply use all the tricks to depreciate what meta-technology offers. (“Yes this happens but it doesn’t count”—and all the rest of it.)
Above, I stated emphatically that meta-technology does not “rescue” physico-mathematical science, nor is it intrinsically more relevant to the physics profession than to dentistry. Nevertheless, paying attention to the so-called foundations and to the most pretentious side of hard science seem indispensable as a spur to meta-technology. Again, we do not go to science to see what the profession’s advocates want us to see. (In the case of the interpretations of quantum mechanics, the physicists have admitted that they indoctrinated students with the wrong answer for fifty years, and that to questioning students, they said, “shut up and calculate.”) Beyond merely appraising the state of play, the logics of the physico-mathematical sciences need dissection from a variety of angles, as if a savage belief-system were being codified by an anthropologist.
Science is an object-lesson to meta-technology across the board. As meta-technology is cross-potentiated, it will have to intervene in science, or couple to science. Not only as regards conceiving experiments for the cerebroscope (although that is important). Meta-technology will have to intervene in science to keep its promise of making bridges fall down by jamming the logic by which the bridges were built (whether that promise is to be understood literally or symbolically).
From my point of view, all published history of science fails—because the historians believe implicitly that science is the only possible mental mastery activity. (In Freudenthal’s Lincos, it becomes explicit: if there are Martians, their mental processes will contour to ours because ours are already right.) The historians can only wait for the scientists to announce that they have overcome their own dilemmas (which “dilemmas” are announced because they are advantageous to the profession). The “answer” to “the question” has to be the scientific answer because there is nowhere else for answers to come from. It follows that if something happened that places science in an unfavorable light, these historians have no motive to record it. It makes no sense for them to do anything but proceed to the profession’s favorite answer as quickly as possible. (Otherwise they would be claiming to have a better science than the one they are chronicling.)
My historical appraisals of physics are needed to puncture the mystiques of physics which are always being offered by the leading savants. Going beyond that, a heterodox reading of science’s history may be expected to yield meta-technological content. Cf. the 1980 “Anti-Mathematics” and the manuscripts which preceded and followed it.
Meta-technology was opened up in yet another way when when I began to write study problems for it in 1980, and when I began to write an aptitude test for it.
Important pieces have been left unfinished, or were never brought to the hoped-for devastating result.
I made another one of my detours starting in 1987, when I showed works of primarily meta-technological interest in art venues. In fact, that reflected meta-technology’s origin in my early intermedia pieces of the cognitive nihilist period; those pieces were brought to art venues by default.
It’s not vague in the least. “Stroke Numeral” was shown in 1987 in Avenue B Gallery, and the accompanying explanation, “The Apprehension of Plurality,” said it was concept art when it was quintessential meta-technology. Similarly for “Logically Impossible Space” at the Venice Biennale; similarly for “The Counting Stands.” How did this happen? Because there was no other way to get the work on the public record. It was a carefully calcuated maneuver which succeeded. But I paid a terrible price, because there was no public of good will to rescue me from my masquerade. Thus, I also gave comfort to detractors who wanted to dismiss the work.
These “manifestations” belong in an epistemology laboratory. But there has never been a chance that I could get support for such a thing.
In 1993, I wrote a survey piece on meta-technology which was so carefully considered that it may be hard to better it even as it goes out of date.
As a follow-up, in 1999, I outlined another meta-technology anthology, now to be called simply Meta-Technology. At this point I had far more to be going on with. It had branched and re-branched, and the three branches had disappeared (except that the logic of contradictions remained identifiable). The texts to be anthologized were divided as follows:
—relevant critiques of science
—a large number of vitally important texts which were named but not printed.
Evidently I prioritized certain pieces for inclusion, and relegated the rest to a list to save space. But all of it needs to be in a treatise or anthology.
The insuperable obstacle to publication was that there was absolutely no audience for it. One couldn’t even say which shelf it belonged on in a bookstore.
There is a point made earlier which can best be elaborated here. When I was trying to recruit scientists, they were telling me “I wouldn’t worry about that.” They were telling me “Yes that happens but it doesn’t count.” They were telling me “I know it’s false and I don’t care.” Papers in journals placed similar thoughts on record: Nicholas Goodman said that a correct constructive proof that 1 = 2 would be a certificate of insanity of the human race. Or take Tim Crane on the waterfall illusion, 1988. A scientist would rather make evidence disappear, or wrestle his or her own perceptions to the ground, than be disloyal to his or her inculcated “orientation.” There was my 2002 reply to a philosophy student regarding whether the waterfall illusion shall be admitted as a contradiction-picture. (Graham Priest had endorsed my approach in 1999 in “Perceiving Contradictions,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, so the student was “late to the feast.”)
Shall the waterfall illusion, or the Necker cube of “Logically Impossible Space,” or the counting stands, or any other of meta-technology’s evidence lead us beyond inherited mental templates? It is a fight to the death: in which the civilization’s defenders are prepared to wrestle their own sensuous experience to the ground and beat it to a bloody pulp—or to make a zebra into a horse by calling it a horse. A more insidious ploy is to smother the anomalous evidence under some already existing formal machinery.
Scientists are on a quest to extend the fanatical mysticism of depersonalization and the manipulation of matter. (And at the end of it all is not omniscience but an ignorance machine—although few of them are clear on that.) Nothing less than the existence of an entire civilization is at stake in the personal identity of the scientist. There are no gentlemen’s rules if you challenge the tenets of their creed. They will ruthlessly lie and cheat to protect the civilization that gave them their so-called consciousness. To credit meta-technology would amount to stabbing their civilization in the back. It would be a suicide of humiliation.
Why, then, wouldn’t I arrive at something like personhood theory? Non-intellectual epistemology trumps intellectual epistemology: if one is not alone on a desert island. If what is “true” and “false” devolves, at rock bottom, from “social” solidarity and life-purpose, why would I shrug it off as a bad business? Why wouldn’t I try to find a way to say how it operates?
What can we say about the shape of meta-technology on the basis of my contributions since 1993? In the first place, those contributions include some of the crowning jewels of the endeavor. Older ideas (and essays) have been given better presentations. Important steps have been taken not anticipated in the early years. So meta-technology did not falter after 1993.
The three branches have been cross-potentiated and have pretty much dissolved. The logic of contradictions has been broadened until it pertains to philosophy of science across the board. Constitutive dissociation has been introduced as a “pillar” to stand beside the logic of contradictions—so that the “logic” now has two pillars. Very little was done with the evaluational processing of experience (EPE) beyond the Epistemic Calculus. In connection with EPE, we need to revisit “Reconsidering Empiricism” and “Again Empiricism.”
In the same period, it came to my attention that the positivists’ critique of metaphysics was out of favor with scientists. That left me to reconsider whether the positivist critique had had a point, whether the scientists were backsliding (or had remained traditionalists while positivism raged). I had another look at metaphysics in the later 1990s. In that material, the reader has to watch out for compromised positioning—levels not sorted out. The upshot is not that I demand that physics be re-Carnaped. (That is hardly the salvation I am looking for.) Perhaps my conclusion is something like this: Carnap’s intuition that metaphysics is futile was sound. Atheism is unworthy: because it credits that theism has something to say (and it doesn’t, except where it is trivially false, where it places an elderly bearded God on a chair in the sky). All the same, Carnap was horribly wrong that physics can be the exemplar of a metaphysics-free science. Science connects inescapably to synthetic a priori propositions—to declarations about reality that extrapolate altogether beyond verification.
The reconsideration of metaphysics is a fringe issue for meta-technology; it is apposite insofar as meta-technology needs a cultural anthropology of physics, for example.
A major departure in the period is that I began to make meta-technologically motivated interventions in named scholarly disciplines. The student has to view this material with caution. I enjoy meta-technology framed as a stand-alone endeavor. I enjoy uncompromised positioning. To dabble in named scholarly disciplines risks giving the latter a legitimacy I don’t want them to have. (Compare the way I had to become an art soldier in order to further my interests through the art world.)
I broadened the logic of contradictions until it pierces the philosophy of science at many points. It remains its own, extra-cultural method—but it finds grist for its mill throughout the philosophy of science. Topics include: vulnerabilities of mathematics, vulnerabilities of metamathematics, contradictions in (verbal) common sense, verbal self-reference, paradoxes of physics.
Some of the work could be passed off in these existing disciplines:
philosophy of mathematics
foundations of physics
I even made some jabs at pure theoretical linguistics. I don’t claim that this direction is the ideal one. it is a direction that happened to motivate me when motivation was scarce. As well, it is an unavoidable direction if we understand that meta-technology treats the prestige determination of reality as the given which it is interesting to destabilize. “The prestige determination of reality gives us our assignment, or one of our assignments.”
I need to follow up on designing those a priori neurocybernetics experiments for that cerebroscope.
“Premonitory Imagery,” 1992, might be mentioned as a borderline investigation. Searching for some use of premonitory imagery that is not superstitious, I ponder conceiving it as a third branch of inference after induction.