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World lines and the navigation of imagination space


Engaging with the Inexplicable, the Incomprehensible and the Unexpected (Part #19)


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Technology as dream: Humanity prides itself on the capacity to invent and develop new technologies -- most notably to control its relationship to the natural environment. Curiously this instrumental expertise is conventionally dissociated from its symbolic significance -- especially curious in that such inventions often emerge from "dreams" and people "dream" of bringing them about. This argument has been developed by Robert D. Romanyshyn (Technology as Symptom and Dream, 1989). The sense in which technology is "the desire for presence", the "technologization of human virtuality" and the "fantasmatic relation to the real" has been explored by André Cornelis Nusselder (Interface Fantasy: a lacanian cyborg ontology, 2006).

A related argument might be made for theories and models as a form of "conceptual technology", also emerging from dreams and constituting vehicles with which cognitive space is navigated. Of interest is why humanity engenders particular conceptual frameworks over the course of its history and what "imagination space" such technologies enable it to navigate. Myths may of course be seen in this light.

World lines of physics: The question here is whether the familiarity of narratives and "story lines" might be fruitfully infused with some of the formal insights of "world lines" as understood in theoretical physics. Again, if the notion of "world lines" is of significance to the advancement of knowledge regarding humanity's place in the universe, is there some possibility that they might be of vital relevance to understanding of knowledge space and how it is to be navigated -- especially with the problematic challenges of communication between worldviews?

In physics, the world line of an object is the unique path of that object as it travels through 4-dimensional spacetime. It is a convenient way of drawing out the history of an entity through space as well as time. The idea was pioneered by Einstein and the term is now most often used in relativity theories (i.e., general relativity and special relativity). However, world lines are also a general way of representing the course of events. The term is not bound to any specific theory. Thus in general usage, a world line is the sequential path of personal human events (with time and place as dimensions) that marks the history of a person -- perhaps starting at the time and place of one's birth until their death.

"Cognitive world lines"? However physics is typically averse to the subjective dimension of relevance here. "Cognitive physics" has yet to emerge as a discipline. There is little trace of "cognitive world lines" in the literature, although recognition is given -- as a metaphor -- to "psychological world lines". Reflection on "subjective world lines" remains speculative, as in this example by James Messig (2010):

There seems to be a higher meaning to time, especially to the subjectively experienced form of time in each one of our personal here and nows that transcends general relativistic abrupt space time warp based, or wormhole, travel into the past or into the future and then back into the present or past. Perhaps there are multiple levels of time and the primary dimension of time is that which each and everyone of us experiences as we live out our world lines within the context of the continuity in our sense of personal identity.... The point I am trying to make is that we may never be able to predict our subjective world line temporal activity streams either because of human free will, or because of the unpredictable deterministic volitional activities we make as they arise in day to day life.


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