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Designing a Team for Alien Encounter: Communicating with Aliens (Part III)


Distinguishing Patterns of Assumption in Dialogue with Aliens
Level #02 : Opposition/Disagreement
Level #03 : Dialectic synthesis
Level #04 : Developmental interaction
Level #05 : Constraints on existence
Level #06 : Coherence through renewal
Level #07 : Modes of change
Level #08 : Constraints on change
Level #09 : Implementation of a transformation process
Level #10 : Endurance of a strategic approach
Level #11 : Empowerment and importance of a strategic approach
Level #12 : Harmoniously transformative controlled relationship
Level #13 : Creative renewal
Level #14 : Cycle of development processes
Level #15 : Construction and development of a strategic approach
Level #16 : Values and assumptions
Level #17 : Relationship potential of a strategic approach
Level #18 : Inadequate transformation attempts
Level #19 : Qualitative transformation
Level #20 : Significance of mutually constraining approaches

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The exercise below explores, in a highly formal structured way, the challenges to comprehension in initiating and maintaining strategic dialogue in highly uncertain situations. The 'progressive' stages in the structure are designed to isolate zones of relative certainty within a global pattern which configures incompatible assumptions that sustain local certainties. As such it is a global framework for a diversity of perspectives -- designed to create a relationship between a variety of assumptions that offer degrees of certainty whilst being each a trap in their own right.

The exercise below originally appeared in the 1986 edition of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. It was partly based on a collection of work published in Patterns of Conceptual Integration (Brussels, UIA, 1984) analyzing different philosophical and conceptual schemes. It was subsequently used in its original form to distinguish levels of declarations of principles. A discussion of the 'method' that resulted in its generation is given elsewhere.

The structure endeavours to embody the kinds of discontinuity, incompatibility and contradiction that emerge in dialogue. As Nalimov notes: 'Strange as it may seem, very little can be said about contradictory statements' (1981, p. 75). He notes that 'many contradictions arise only because of the hetereogeneity of our language: in everyday language we are mixing judgements made in the object-language with those made in metalanguage. Other contradictions result from ascribing to words too precise meanings' (p. 76) Rich dialogue always include self-referential dimensions. Incidentally, Nalimov sees metaphor as one way to handle this difficulty -- raising the question whether aliens might rely to a far greater extent on metaphor in dialogue.

Nalimov argues that the power of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, rejected by positivists as full of nonsense, as 'in fact due to to its paradoxical nature; separate statements in a certain sense contradict one another though they possess a certain inner consistency, too. It is only through this game of consistency and contradiction that Wittgenstein managed to express elegantly a very complicated outlook which could hardly have been expressed in strictly deductive and inwardly consistent statements' (p. 1981, 79-80). He continues:

'Even at the stage of completion, in constructing concepts generalizing a macroworld, we have to allow contradictions to arise. Classical logic proves insufficient for the description of the outer world. Trying to comprehend this philosophically, Bohr formulated his famous principle complementarity, according to which in order to reproduce abn integral phenomenon in a sign system, mutually exclusive complementary notions must necessarily be used.' (p. 80)

The following exercise constructs a succession of patterns of complementary perspectives, such that the early patterns embody the maximum level of explicit contradiction, whereas the later ones render explicit the maximum amount on variety. Unlike the elegant exercise of Wittgenstein, the resultant texts are crude. However they are merely designed as markers whose content could be much refined to enhance the incompatibility, charging the contradiction to a higher degree. The texts could also be enhanced to further highlight the complementarity within each pattern.

Note that the source material for certain levels tends to be associated with particular philosophical perspectives but an effort has been made to "tune" the pattern into an integrated whole. The wording is unfortunately cumbersome in order to keep some link to such sources and because the pattern is designed as a continuing challenge to comprehension -- including the author's! The result is far from satisfactory.

This experiment can be used as a way of reviewing varieties of dialogue by number. Ironically, given the enthusiasm for patterns of numbers in communicating with extraterrestrials, the following structure is developed as a pattern of numbers. Here however the emphasis is placed on the qualitative challenges to comprehension associated with such numbers in a dialogue situation: comprehending unity, polarization, the eternal relationship triangle, etc. (following from an earlier paper, Judge, 1979). The pattern below is about the processes and stages of dialogue in which those in the encounter are engaged -- not about formal abstractions irrelevant to the immediate challenges to comprehension through that dialogue. In this sense it is self-reflexive.

The pattern is designed to relate the degree of certainty/uncertainty associated with apparently simple understandings of unity, polarization (binary yes-no), etc, situations to progressively more apparently complex sets of distinctions. At later levels, as the degree of certainty that it is possible to associate with any given distinction becomes greater, the challenge to comprehending the complementarity of the set at that level itself becomes greater. In effect the pattern as a whole is a play between implicit and explicit uncertainty.

In a given dialogue, the challenge is to determine where the participants are within this framework -- or possibly their pattern of movement within it -- in order to respond appropriately to sustain the dialogue. The framework might also serve as a working document to assist elaboration of a guide for anyone preparing for communication with aliens -- if such a manual can be developed !

Level #01 : Inadequacy of strategic approaches

1. No single strategic approach (including this one), nor any logically integrated set of approaches, adequately encompasses the nature of the appropriate dialogue process with aliens (or unbelievers). Every position or formulation is therefore suspect. When it is formulated within a domain of unquestioned consensus, this potential doubt is inactive, thus establishing a boundary of uncritical discourse which inhibits appropriate dialogue.

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