Neosentience & Chemical – Cognitive Collective Memory

Where does knowledge come from? How can we trace it? Is knowledge comparable to information storage? Is it something with a location? Or is it ever-present? A virtual understanding realized in the embodied act of remembering?

Many of the ways we currently speak about memory are drawn from analogies to trails – physical evidence of a path through time. From medieval relics – objects promising access to timeless holy wisdom – to our current solid-state hard drives – objects promising not wisdom but information, through a process of encoding at the smallest achievable level. Both of these doors to knowledge can be viewed on a chemical and a cognitive level. The objects can be described as the result of chemical bonds. The knowledge (a point on the spectrum of wisdom and information) can be described as the sentient act of interpreting meaning from these results: on a macro level (as in the wisdom of a holy object), and on a micro level (as in the information magnetized onto a hard drive).

I will make the argument that much of how we interpret the validity of a link to truth  (a piece of chemical evidence) is the product of the scale on which we cognitively view the object.

If the neosentient is form from an evolution of our current computer systems, it will maintain the scale of the hard drive – one of intense micro analysis. The neosentient will thus either lack a mythology or create a new mythology on a scale we cannot comprehend. Without such a mythology, the neosentient will not be able to maintain belief in the notion of continuous progress over time – a concept deeply tied to our sustained belief in the reality and influence of a collective societal memory.

The nature of the neosentients’ collective societal memory is very important to the understanding of the culture of the neosentient. If, for example, the neosentient maintains a “hive” system of knowledge and communication, their form of memory will be more technically accurate and possibly incompatible with our dual systems of personal memory and sculptural memory (each with their own systems of prosthesis). One presumes that a true collective memory would invalidate much of what we accept from the human concept of collective memory. In our hive example, the value of “perspective” (mass or individual) is lost when truth becomes singular by consensus and shared experience. Yet, we must ask ourselves if this is a dystopia or a true utopia? Is our habit of calling perspective not the product of a desire for holistic truth?

I would like to make a framework of cross-sections to discuss collective memory: a macro/micro, digital/analogue, chemical/cognitive. This will bring to light not only important elements in the homosapien conversation about memory but the unique position of a neosentient coming from a specifically digital background and it’s situation as an entity starting as chemical and becoming cognitive, starting as discrete and becoming continuous. I will also discuss the alternative possibility – the ethical impact of the cultural developments that may arise from a sentient with a specifically digital/micro outlook.


About Sarah Goetz
By day, I teach Wired! Workshops, builds responsive websites, and creates work for the Link Media Wall at Duke University. By night, I am an artist who makes sewn paper installations, experimental films, and abstract watercolor paintings. I have the passion of an artist and the humor of a web designer, and I am soon to take over the world, or at least your vision of it

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