Submission to the announced summit on counter-terrorism
9 Aug 05
1. Purpose of the submission
Globalisation has brought societies and their various demographics closer together. If common interests could be found their respective interactions availed themselves of a higher degree of interdependence and hence productivity. On the other hand, diverse interests are equally given the opportunity to manifest more acutely, with less room to side-step potential clashes.
One result has been the global phenomenon of terrorism. Although varying political interests have couched its symptoms in terms of their agendas, a closer examination reveals that a comprehensive dismissal of this or that representation would be rather superficial.
For example, a consistent position espoused by the Western alliance in Iraq has been and still is the view that events in Iraq should not be linked to the aims and 'excuses' articulated by Islamic terrorists. Conversely, the latter do emphasise the link just as consistently.
The ability of either side to propagate its opinion to its respective camps shows both views have sufficient purchase to rally their adherents, accentuating and hardening their own positions, and thus making a productive solution less and less viable.
Attempts by Western governments to disassociate the wider Muslim community from the threats faced by the former, the problems experienced by the latter to reconcile their culture with the demands of the moment, and the difficulties emerging in Islamic countries to conduct a similar exercise within the context of their local demographics, demonstrates the sheer inevitability of divergent conceptualisations as a function of specific cultures tied to their own history.
The common denominator of the above are political frameworks that so far could only be expressed in terms particular to their hosts, where the perspective, the articulation, and eventually the implementation can only ever be seen as representative of their initiators. Since these are once again perceived as a symptom of their sources, the result is a never-ending cycle of obfuscation to which all sides avail themselves as they see fit.
What is needed is a framework that is inherently objective and does not rely on specific interpretations from whatever side. When a society or a demographic is first and foremost seen as a system, its general dynamics answer to varying content but exhibit a nature that can be accessed from any direction. Just as an electrical circuit needs the proper placement of such things as positive and negative wirings, fuses, etc, regardless of whether the circuit exists in a factory, a house, or in a toy.
2. The work
The entire text is titled "On the origin of Mind", henceforth referred to by its acronym Otoom. It comes in two parts; the first is a top-down approach where philosophical texts are used to take apart thought structures in order to show their inherent natures and how they interact with each other, the second a bottom-up approach moving from neuronal configurations to functional clusters to domains that in turn give rise to the thought structures mentioned before.
It was also possible to simulate the system through a computer program, a prototype of an artificial mind. Its performance can be analysed, and by conducting a series of test cycles the dynamics identified in the theoretical model can be found again and placed into their overall context. As interdisciplinary as the work is, the model's functionalities accord with numerous research findings in fields such as neuroscience, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence (to name but a few), not to mention events around the globe throughout history and today.
The strength of the model lies in its emphasis on functionality, rather than content. Thereby the traditional obstacle of having to identify an object in comprehensive terms before any further analysis can be undertaken, is largely circumvented. However, this does not mean the model's analytical capability is compromised. On the contrary, by focusing on functionality first an otherwise incompletely defined subsystem can be usefully described so that its role within its environment - another system of course - can now be understood.
Due to this format the model is scalable, which allows descriptions not only of an individual's mind but also of its higher-scale counterparts, in other words, group dynamics and behaviour forms in society at large.
3. Applicability in general
Any society is an assembly of its members, individual minds with their own thoughts, notions, preferences and aversions. It is justifiable therefore to see such an assembly as a conglomerate of similar characteristics but at a larger scale where the means of articulation, interchange, and categorisation of ideas follow the opportunities their society can provide. If the dynamics of scale are taken into account, together with the higher-scale medium, the similarities in relation to lower-level events can be identified.
Traditionally such an exercise entailed a perspective that was largely tainted by the disposition of the observer, making it a subjective one. However, no matter what the content, the clustering of relevant ideas, the emergence of branchings, disassociations from previous themes, and the forming and re-forming of affinitive conceptual domains occur regardless of the labels being applied by whatever agency.
Furthermore, just as a single idea can be traced along its development and its possible distancing from ascertainable facts, so can larger-scale concepts in society be followed and their routes into idiosyncratic realms be observed. The creation of an ideology, its roots, the subsequent clusters it generates, and its effects on the system as a whole is a scenario which is now open to formal analysis.
Otoom provides the conceptual tool set to describe all such detail. Generally speaking one can say that the larger the system, the more inherently logical it must be for its various parts to function in harmony with each other. By contrast, the more idiosyncratic its functional domains, the less capable the entire whole is to respond to its internal as well as external environment.
4. Applicability in detail
The dominance of Western culture is therefore no coincidence. Through the constant processing of ideas coming from science and technology, its flexibility through the experimentation with differing systems of laws and governance, an entire domain emerged that supplied the fertile grounds for sustainable progress, stability, and comfort. Despite the upheavals in its history, our standards have nevertheless consistently improved and should be allowed to improve.
It is also no coincidence that much of the necessary intellectual material came from the Age of Reason, a period radically branching away from the stultifying influence of the church, a significant form of cultural idiosyncrasy.
The emergence of global terrorism is a function not only of the wider scale of intra- and international interdependencies but can also be traced to local demographics inside and outside the West. Our current state of world affairs makes it impossible to geographically retreat, or to re-direct one's focus to areas that offer some degree of isolation or protection. Note this applies to all sides.
What follows is a list of items that suggest themselves under the auspices of Otoom. They do not follow some party policy, or even some degree of convenience in terms of a particular party's readiness to implement them. They are provided against the overall need to create a sustainable environment for a developmentally open-ended human activity system to survive into the future. Further detail can be found in Otoom.
4. 1. A Bill of Rights
A major characteristic of a dynamic - that is, a changing and responding - system, is its interdependence and hence its feedback mechanism. It matters how a system is defined, and although the epithet may be applied from the top down, if and when understood by the members that same label becomes an expectation expressed from the ground upwards.
The only fundamental definition of how a system should function in terms of its characteristics is a Bill of Rights. Its contents define the inherent nature of one's society, its rights and constraints delineate the opportunities for its citizens, and so by its very existence becomes the arbiter of the essential standard current members and potential newcomers will subscribe to.
Because the definition is fundamental, interpretations relevant to current events can be made without compromising its stability and hence its expectability. Similarly, for a newcomer the society appears, at least at this point, as a comprehensive whole, its nature laid out once and for all.
4. 2. The process of citizenship
There are two essential types of newcomers to a society: young people growing into adulthood and immigrants. Both are faced with the need to interact in a manner that at once offers rights and duties.
The process of citizenship, tailored to either type, ought to ensure that the basic building blocks that comprise their host system are understood and can be complied with. To my knowledge there does not exist a comprehensive procedure answering to such needs. On the contrary, it seems the historical distance from many disasters in the past has produced a false sense of security which assumes the overall 'wisdom' of the people will always make the correct decision regardless of the weight of its consequences.
In order to make any decision one needs a commensurate knowledge base. In the case of Western society that knowledge base relates to the reasons why it works so much better than many others, and on what principles it ultimately rests.
4. 3. Safeguards against ideology
Idiosyncratic behaviour comes in many forms, secular and spiritual. Although no human being is entirely free from such elements (personal and emotional bias see to that) it is a sign of maturity to leave these aside when stepping into the public space.
Hence it is quite possible for an individual to be a subscriber to a religion or a like belief system. It matters however how intensively such beliefs are held and how literally they become interpreted in that person's daily life.
For example, despite the Christian bible itself not having been changed over the centuries, our laws do no longer respond to allegations of bewitchment and enjoyed a steady progress towards enlightenment in many other areas. Such progress was only possible because the majority had advanced in maturity and circumspection and thus rendered that book's exhortations mostly useless.
Yet as contemporary events show, superstition still exists and is not restricted to new arrivals. For a society to safeguard itself against excesses of this nature it is necessary to address the influence of ideology in our moral perceptions, in our institutions, and indeed our daily lives. It also means our professional bodies are given the protection for their members to stand up against superstitious nonsense, something they do not seem to have judging by the paralysis exhibited in so many instances where they refused to provide the much-needed light of reason.
4. 4. Security
A complex society requires a variance of activity, and a stable resource space for them to be performed. The threat from individual members is largely understood, although even here the ultimate effect of various types of violence on the rest seems often neglected.
In the context of terrorism our traditional conceptualisation of what constitutes a threat to our security still follows a form of description that permits the re-interpretation by some in terms of race, ethnicity, or demographic. The result is once again obfuscation and a certain amount of paralysis, and the implementation of counter measures tread a fine line between urgency and the common good.
A formal framework of ideational analysis allows the identification of threatening ideologies outside the usual bounds of specific demographics, since it is their functionality which is the focus and not the object-related content, ie the persona and/or group.
In tandem with an assessment along functional lines, the complexity or otherwise of a sub-system, from a group to an individual, can be ascertained in order to tailor an appropriate response. Just as five year-olds need different instructions compared to adults, so does the world contain differing demographics in terms of their societal maturity and emotional intensity. To extend that analogy to security, a kindergarten needs different constraints compared to a university. Neglecting such variants may relegate security measures to hypothetical exercises only.
The upgrading of surveillance systems is already perceived to be encroaching upon the privacy of citizens and for that reason has to endure checks and balances which evoke a potential resistance from quarters that in themselves are unconnected with stated threats. Our traditional sense of privacy relates to the notion of freedom from intrusion in terms of moral or ethical notions that so far had been argued against the background of wilful or ideological interpretations. If ever more comprehensive surveillance becomes necessary, our familiar ideas about morals and intimacy need to be adjusted-another reason for a thorough review of laws that derive their sustenance mostly from the realm of spiritual or secular ideology.
My intent was to write Otoom as a PhD course at the University of Queensland after completing my honours year at Griffith University, Brisbane, in 1999. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge exhibited by the examiners of the honours thesis coupled with a certain ideological bent resulted in marks which made the planned progress impossible. Despite that problem I completed the research anyway but it meant being outside the academic loop.
Given those circumstances I endeavoured to present the work to relevant individuals here and overseas to have it reviewed and commented upon. As references I offer the individuals and/or organisations who can be assumed to be familiar with the text. I am in no position to provide their ultimate judgment and/or opinion, although in most instances I can assume it to be on the more positive side.
I presented Otoom to the director of the Vision Touch and Hearing Research Centre at the University of Queensland, and as a consequence was invited to their weekly seminars. Recently I was given the opportunity to hold a seminar on the principle dynamics of the mind.
Some months ago I sent Otoom to the Research Directorate-General of the European Union in Brussels. Several persons read the text, and through word of mouth I was invited to give a presentation at one of the IPSI conferences. Although unable to attend in person a paper on how the mind works was accepted for the IPSI - 2005 Venice event in November this year.
A letter to the Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock was accompanied by a CD containing Otoom, which was forwarded to Senator Chris Ellison and onwards to the Australian Federal Police in order to have it examined. Although not requested at all, this evaluation, as interesting as it seems from a philosophical/juridical perspective, resulted in the contents being deemed outside the AFP's jurisdiction. Given that pretext I submitted copies of the CD to the police departments of all the states and the Northern Territory, with the following results (in clockwise order):
Although making contact in this manner may seem unconventional, even with the best of connections new research can sometimes take years if not decades to percolate through the layers of society before finding a useful application. Personally I don't have that patience and in any case, under the pressing circumstances I feel justified making the material known as best as I can.
A detailed list of names and addresses is available on request.
The above represents a rough sketch of what a diligent examiner of Otoom is able to do with it. I have no reason to criticise or even address the hands-on experience of Australia's security agencies; nevertheless, as the debates surrounding suggested policies and measures show, there is a certain lack of formality in definition which can only be met by a scientific framework that deals comprehensively with the dynamics of the human mind, at whatever scale.
As mentioned, a complex and sophisticated human activity systems needs a degree of logicality in order to function, and this includes meeting any threats from outside as well as within. The current local and international situation requires measures that touch on principles and notions which so far had been left aside, either for lack of understanding or perceived irrelevance.
We don't have this luxury any more. In the past the ultimate arbiter of a society's standing had been its environment, uncontrolled as it largely was. The more accomplished the society becomes, the more responsibility needs to be assumed for its own affairs. The understanding of how our mind works is no exception.
The suggestions offered do not necessarily link with the day-by-day operations of a counter-terrorism force. As a critical examination of complex systems shows however, the internal long-term configuration of a society is just as important, if not more so, than momentary skirmishes here and there. Still, Otoom can contribute to the strategy as well as the tactics.
"On the origin of Mind" comes on a CD and for completeness' sake it contains the same content as in all the submissions so far, namely -
- the entire set of chapters,
- the computer program plus manual,
- a set of posters depicting the fractal emblem at the top of this letter,
- and my resume.
This offer does not constitute a publication and is for the intended individuals and purpose only and comes with no other strings attached.