The "Outside Of Context" Problem

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Mar 8, 2014.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests."

    Imagine some such event occurring for us in our now globalized technoculture. What would such an event be like? Can we even imagine an event that occurs beyond the boundaries of our culture space, without it automatically finding its place in our scientific/historical narrative? A singularity or "Eschaton" which manifests itself only as a completely mysterious "other" to everything we are programmed to believed by our culture?

    "The planet is on a collision course
    with the most profound event
    it's possible to imagine --
    the freeing of organic life
    from the crysalis of matter.

    Time is the Catalyst
    An event of cosmic significance and importance
    is going to occur
    not far in the future.

    Are we causing it?

    Can we stop it?

    Can we hurry it?

    It's built into the structure
    of matter itself.

    The laws of physics are evolving
    to permit greater freedom.

    The Process of Becoming
    Concrescence is the end
    of the process of becoming
    Becoming is not true being.

    True Being
    exists at the Concrescence."---Terrence McKenna

    "A glow ripples outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever widening circles till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence. Only one interpretation, only one name can be found worthy of this grand phenomenon. Much more coherent and just as extensive as any preceding layer, it is really a new layer, the 'thinking layer'...In other words, outside and above the biosphere there is the noosphere...The earth 'gets a new skin'. Better still, it finds its soul."---Teilhard de Chardin

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    Last edited: Mar 8, 2014
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  3. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Two things: There's a very old Woody Allen stand-up bit where he imagines these spaceships full of aliens enter Earth's orbit. Their technology and military capabilities are clearly far superior to anything Earth has. A message comes from the mother ship as large packages materialize on the Earth's surface. It's 20,000 pairs of trousers.The aliens want them dry-cleaned and pressed by Monday.

    Second thing: I read a horror novel once where the horror was a young girl's premonition of the near future: great gangs of enslaved people pulling wagons through a barren landscape. In the midst of her premonitions she meets an old native American Indian man she knows in the park one day. She tells him her dreams. He says that his people too lived their lives in all their happiness and heartache never imagining that it would all end one day, and quite suddenly at that. He thought it the great weakness of the present American society that it never occurred to them that someday their world too would come crashing in on them, and perhaps very abruptly in a way they never anticipated.
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I call it the illusion of the status quo or "same ole same ole". We get used to things moving along in their usual ways, each day as predictable as the one before. And yet, history is filled with instances of ended eras--worlds collapsing in on themselves or transmogrified into something totally new and different. Never was the inability to imagine an outside to those worlds, much less an outside invader, been a measure of the impossibility of such. The more complex and chaotic and interconnected the system, the more sensitive it becomes to the slightest flap of a butterfly's wings. It'd be something like that moment in the Truman Show when the stage light falls out of the sky and crashes before Truman on the street. A tiny rip in the backdrop of our existential play. The more self-contained and solipsistic the weltanschauung the more vulnerable it becomes to the wholly unpredictable and unknowable--an outside that is as everywhere as it is nowhere.
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  7. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Preach it, brother!
  8. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Isn't the big question: "So what"?
    What can we do about it?
    Is there anything we can do?
    Is there any value in trying to prepare for something we can not predict?
    If there is a known threat, sure, we can prepare.
    But, in the words of the Wise One, Donald Rumsfeld: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
    How can we possibly prepare or do anything about the last of these, other than deal with them when they arise?
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    We can prepare ourselves for it psychologically, much as we would prepare for our imminent and sure death. Nothing we can do about that either, but I think most would overwhelmingly like to know it was coming in advance even though we couldn't stop it. We like to maintain the illusion of control, which is why we value knowledge so much. In the face of the unknown knowledge grants us an illusion of being in charge, even though in reality we may not be.
  10. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    But death is a known unknown.
    I.e. we know death is coming to us all.
    So we know it to prepare for it.
    But how do you propose we prepare for something that is not even known to be unknown?
    You may as well prepare for any one of an infinite possibilities.
    None of which are known will ever occur.
    It seems a futile exercise to even try to prepare for that.
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    An "outside of context" event would be a known unknown just like death. Why do you suggest it isn't known to be unknown? Ofcourse it would be unknown.
  12. RedRabbit Registered Senior Member

    Is it? By definition an OCP is just that, outside our context. It's completely unpredictable or to be prepared for. If we prepared for it it would no longer be outside of context. Death is very much something which is known.
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Well, we're certainly talking about this event as a possibility. So obviously that it can exist is not beyond our perception. It is an undefined variable in the equation of consciousness--an event horizon that is detected by its warping effects on our world.

    "What I've been thinking about is how we can prepare for the arrival of an Out of Context Problem. Given the unpredictable nature of the problem (something so far out of our paradigm that we simply can't see it) it would be wasteful to attempt projections of possible problems, since we already do this as a society and the types of things we predict, no matter how far-fetched, are unlikely to be the problem we will face. Worst-case scenario preparation seems more viable, like the CDC releasing a zombie apocalypse preparation guide to teach people to plan for a variety of serious disaster situations. The problem is that there is only so much planning that we can do, and worst-case scenario preparation usually focuses on basic, day-to-day, and, most of all, temporary survival needs.

    It seems to me that the one thing we can do to prepare for an Out of Context Problem is to become better problem solvers in general. This might seem a little obvious, but hear me out. Whatever the problem that comes up, it is going to be outside the realm of anyone's expertise, so we become more analytic and generalized learners and problem solvers. I'm not just talking about challenging problems though: asking a mathematician to solve highly complex calculus problems isn't an Out of Context Problem. Asking an English Teach to solve the same problem is closer to being out of context.

    Being able to analyze information across diverse fields and use it to solve problems is a highly valuable skill that our very specialized education system seems to ignore. The people we will need to solve the problems we aren't even qualified to dream up yet are those who will not balk at the challenge of new concepts and ideas beyond the scope of their own experience and education."----

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  14. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    A known unknown is definable.
    We know what it is that is unknown.
    An "Out of Context Problem" is undefinable, other than being "out of context".
    And that is no definition.
    As soon as we can come up with anything more precise it becomes an "in context" definition.

    But I see where you are coming from with your additional quote above.
    Personally I see no difference in what they are suggesting for being prepared for OCPs and what we should be encouraging anyway.
    A weakness I see with education, at least when I was going through the system, was that it taught everything parrot fashion.
    You heard.
    Your repeated.
    The better teachers were the ones who taught you not only the facts but how to apply them.
    And in this digital age anyone can uncover the facts.
    But only a relative few know how to relate one to another meaningfully.

    So I think the focus on improving problem-solving for OCP is to miss the need for it in general, in a non-OCP environment, merely for the betterment of society as a whole.
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    For a problem like the OCP we aren't really equipped with the kind of thinking that can approach it and understand it. What is required is training/practice in being able, thru the use of analogies and metaphors, to transcend certain self-contained states. Thought experiments along the lines of "How would you prove a solipsist wrong?" or "How can you conceive of the 4th dimension?" or "What would it be like to be outside of spacetime?". Eastern philosophy provides some good guidelines for how we might "get beyond" these fundamental paradoxes of the mind. Zen and sufi koans and such. We have to push consciousness in directions we didn't even know it was capable of. We need to question our limitations of imagination and conception as only relative to our own immediate conscious state. Imagine a whole generation of new thinkers adept in this art of teasing out comprehensibility from what has always been viewed at absolutely unknowable!
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Imagine a whole generation able to actually count, write, and understand science.

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  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Baby steps! lol!
  18. Jason.Marshall Banned Banned

    Magical realist you are an unorthodox thinker that is the way of the new era dawning.
  19. river

    Agreed and quite frankly , about time .

    But remember this , wisdom , is wise

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