Although we can properly say little about what consciousness is, we can begin like Kant by describing its modes of operation. We may hold thought as a strategic trait, then elucidate what it gains in practice. Machinic Agency sustains the tension between feeling free and observing determinism, feeling optimistic when surrounded by entropy. Just as quantum physics relies on the assumption of uncertainty to produce probability, the assumption of freedom within a system of rules itself produces liberty. In each case, the Observer plays an active role in framing and anchoring the system of values. Wherever there is observation, the combination of intelligence and consciousness, there is arborescence.
Arborescence is the branching of representations that occurs under the generalization and abstraction of semiotic analysis. Analysis splits perceptions repeatedly, creating dichotomies even where there is no perceptible opposite. This long series of breaks when drawn begin to look tree-like. The Observer creates many trees of knowledge. Philosophers are interested in cultivating these forests.
That which appears as power-law and arborescent when we focus on a trait of a population disappears into chaos and nonsense when we are not looking. That is not to say that there is no existence when we are not the Observer, but that our mind filters, prioritizes, and obscures experience like the lens of a camera, and it narrows perception through framing as well. We overlay representation in the act of analysis, and do so with increasing selfishness and optimism unless some other tree of knowledge competes for the light of the sun.
It should not surprise us that we find fractals and branches everywhere we focus, recording causality and determination along the plane of observation; these are the operative processes of the human recording of production. Moreover, we can fully expect that consciousness will succeed in making sense of what is under observation at the expense of what is not under observation. Patterns suddenly come into focus. Melodies suddenly fall into proper rhythm, shutting out contentious noises. Analysis gives us a normal distribution, spreading, branching upward from the trunk of paternalism. It is the stubbornness of the Observer to remain at the trunk once so many branches have spread that drives the role of paternalism and centralization.
It is metaphor to say that the conscious mind is arborescent, even more to speak of an unconscious at all. These are expressions. When we apply observation, gather data, select a plane of significance, truncate outliers, cancel noise, homogenize particles and investment vehicles, we as the Observer are generating the Fractal Ontology we find, creating but also projecting logic where we have no evidence of design. Just outside the peripheral vision of the mind is everything that does not need observation for The Moment. Concentration, consistency, coherency, abstraction, derivation – these are paternalistic controls over representation. The more we develop our semiotic system, the more repressive it becomes in the service of the Observer.
This implies two basic universes of thought become possible. First, we can imagine consciousness like an astronaut recording a video, floating, spiraling in space; if we keep turning we get a 360-degree image of what surrounds us (consciousness) but understand only derivations of the role or substance of the camera itself or the person recording the images. This places the intelligent observer at the center of a personal universe of representation. Second, we can imagine walking in a circle around a fixed center until we observe the entire 360-degrees available by looking at or beyond the central axis point. In this case unconscious remains in the feeling we can never attain full confidence that behind us, beyond the limits of our peripheral vision, there may not be something we are missing. In either case, Observation is the strategic outcome of the thought-drive, operating like the drive for hunger or sex. We continuously record, focus, frame, anchor, and bias our experiences (consciousness) until the moment our thought-drive must recuse itself and ask “What have I missed? What lurks in the shadows? What if there is something just behind me? What if I am dreaming and great danger awaits my body in the real world?” We can see the immediate value to the Observer of this continuous experimentation with uncertainty, lest he get so lost in his forests of knowledge as to be eaten by a cougar or bear!
The “trunk” of these two conceptions digs into something, remaining unseen but that our observable universe of thought convinces us must exist. It is the prerequisite for sense-making, this assumption that either the world “behind” our representations has substance or spirit, or that the world “within” has equivalent constituents or a ghost. We are never content, except with enormous discipline of practice, to believe that either there is no soul in our machine; or that there might be many forces working in concert, like a well-formed orchestra no longer in need of a conductor; or that this identity itself is the great lie, that we have no soul to lose or preserve at all.
This is the Rhizomatic Unconscious in which we never fully understand our own camera or relate it perfectly to the film, and can never fully incorporate into the image all the elements not captured in each shot. In this way, we observe logic and perfection in the universe not because it is there, though it might be the case. We only know that we observe an apparent logic, but wonder if we ourselves create it. We try to overcome the uncertainty principle, a mathematical solipsism of sorts, through combined will-to-power. We say, “If several observers stand in the center together, looking outward, while even more observers stand in a circle around them, looking at them and beyond them; then we can get a perfect and complete view! Then we can be sure there is not threat or uncertainty!” This very combined effort makes the feeling of liberated will at odds with the determinism of collective observation.
This has always been the goal of our institutions, from the nomadic tribe or primitive commune to our most advanced scientific laboratories and most complete mathematical models. If we work as individuals, we can take greater risks with potentially greater rewards, but if we work collectively we can attain more complete information regarding potential risks and opportunities. We tend to oscillate between extremes, both in single lifetimes and as a species.
In the meanwhile, wherever we focus, we axiomatize. The only method we have found as a collective to help the individual with their unconscious is to shout at them from across the circle, hoping they will believe us if we describe the bear behind them with enough intensity. Unfortunately, many never turn around in time. Death has already come for them in their ignorant distraction.