Preface: This article is a deep, philosophical considering. Please try to read *through* the words with care.
In the contemporary situation, we are faced with several fronts of a seemingly insurmountable social crisis; political polarization, mental health and substance abuse crises, inequality, climate change, fake news. These issues can be viewed as separate, independent social problems. But they all feed back on one another and amplify each other’s depth. The mental health crisis causes people to do horrendous crimes which amplifies political polarization. Political polarization drives fake news. Fake news breeds nihilism and talk of a “post-truth” world, and exacerbates mental health problems. Substance abuse perpetuates inequality. Solving these problems one by one does not solve the underlying, structural problem and it does not address the problems fast enough to prevent systemic collapse. All of these problems are examples of systemic coordination failures. To address systemic coordination failures we would have to better understand how healthy social coordination works. This article describes social coordination at the philosophical-structural level, seeking to articulate and modify the deep code of adaptive social structures.
What is social coordination? Social coordination is an emergent property of the interaction between individuals that allows them to work together effectively. Social coordination is not a top down or bottom up solution, but a natural, human solution that is an expression of our natural biosocial tendencies. Social coordination is a certain compromise between individual and collective. It is not merely the convergence of subjective, imaginary beliefs. It is an almost objective property of human biosociality that allows individuals to rapidly merge maps and form compatible goals. Examples of efficient macro-scale coordination are: capitalist cooperation/competition through prices, religious community in Christianity and world religions, and knowledge production in the natural sciences.
How does social coordination emerge? At the individual level, people are motivated to map desires to fulfillments. Individuals are motivated by temporal symmetry between desires and fulfillments. This extends to plan structures that abstract from present to future states. As the plan structures unfold, there is symmetry between internal thought and external environment.
Each individual, motivated by this internal symmetry, interacts with other individuals. They form maps of each other’s maps. There are meaningful differences because they all have their own independent desires. Yet the ambient, differential pressures between their internal maps tends toward resolution in spatial simultaneity, when the internal matches with the external immediately and immanently; not as a plan structure, but all at once in the moment. Individuals fulfill the highest desire within interaction itself, rather than in some other way. The best example of spatial simultaneity is meaningful coincidence, a serendipitous occurrence that seems planned out in advance, but in fact emerges spontaneously.
In the contemporary situation, interaction is often seen as one subjective experience contrasted with another, different subjective experience, trying to either win an argument or to converge on understanding. This is a misguided notion. Categories (or words) are not localized. Usage propagates through conversation and then through the collective of interconnected conversations, immediately. Therefore any use of a category effectively incorporates all its possible social meanings. However, people also use categories in a specific, specialized way that necessarily distinguishes from other uses of the same category. One person uses the category “liberal” to refer to progressive social policies, while another uses it to refer to neoliberal, laissez faire economic policies. They are both justified because in the objective state of collective dialogue, the category “liberal” incorporates both meanings. There is a kind of ecosystem of usage in which categories circulate, interact with other distinct usages, and resolve their meaning in conversation.
The profound tension between personal usage and collective significance is at the heart of social coordination. Personal usage is implicitly an assertion of how the category should be used, and the collective significance is how the category is used objectively in the collective dialogue. The tension between these is the same as the ambient, differential pressure between internal maps that circulates through social interactions. This differential pressure tends towards resolution in spatial simultaneity, when personal usages align and the different unconscious assumptions cancel out. The ambient, differential pressure is a single field, a unified, immanent structure that is sensitive to all adjustments and inflections.
The collective significance is a single interwoven construct of meaning. It is an objective universal intermediary between interactions, like a currency of interactions. It is the objective state of category relations, of all conversations going on right now, as aggregated in the individual intuition. And because categories are spatial and embodied, this field extends out from internal, individual consciousness into the socio-physical external environment. It is a hypercomplex, hyperconnected, coherent social field that contains information and content. It is discerned and parsed using intuition, flow, and insight. It makes up the unconscious, contextual background assumptions connected to any specific usage of a category.
All expressions aggregate collective significance, more or less efficiently. When the aggregation is perfectly efficient, the individual speaks literally as and for the collective. The individual gives voice to the unconscious motivation of the collective. Each individual is the center node of network of relations and speaks as the collective in their own unique way, more or less efficiently. Collective dialogue is a constant negotiation of the status of this hypercomplex, unified, evolving field of meaning. Individuals constantly map it, convey it to others, receive feedback, adjust their internal map, and then convey it again. It can be parsed into a series of discrete categories, and also hypothesized as a single, prioritized category. It is multi-modal and discontinuous, yet adaptive and unified.
This is all to say that the individual is intrinsically motivated to fulfill his desires in such a way that he belongs in the social community. Yet he does not want to fulfill all of his desires, because then he has nothing left to strive for. Therefore, effective conversation sorts the collective prioritization of desires such that there will be a highest desire that is never fulfilled. Effective conversation sorts unconscious, asymmetric information to this natural, symmetric state of one highest unfulfilled desire. It sets up conditions such that fulfillment of the highest desire can be infinitely approximated without ever being reached. This is a kind of calculus of mutual fulfillments within social interaction that is the ultimate goal of emergent coordination and facilitates heightened collective spatial simultaneity.
All of the circulating, ambient social pressure is seeking resolution in an ultimate catharsis of collective biosocial simultaneity, in which the hyperconnective field finds its full cultural expression. All distributed spatiotemporal information is efficiently compressed into a single collective event. Individual’s movements through space are harmonized in synchronous macro-scale coordination. Individual action is a perfectly efficient platform of spatial information exchange. Each unique individual node aggregates and re-expresses the whole collective significance in a completely unique way, in perfectly harmonized emotional purgation. This is what capitalist, religious, and scientific coordination, as a grand synthesis, all tend toward.
However, this ultimate resolution is only a hypothetical model or construct, not a utopian ideal. It is useful only as an abstract tool for comparison, like a number or abstract shape. It is the highest desire which is never fulfilled, but continuously approximated, negotiated, and dialectically transformed.
The meaning, significance, importance, value of a conversation is an emergent property. One might say that it is the only thing that is truly objective. This property is the tendency towards temporal symmetry and spatial simultaneity. All conversations tend toward this end and sort information according to this criterion, consciously or unconsciously. When we have conversations and create cultural expressions, we sort information to its natural, symmetric state and thereby heighten the distributed collective simultaneity and meaningful coincidence of events. Conversation is organized around and oriented towards these deep, unconscious attractors of meaning. It is in the simple joy of being together in creative expression that we self organize in the most natural, meaningful way.