• Nelson Guedes

Welcome to the Postnormal Era

Updated: May 2, 2020

Let’s see them aliens

Today is going to be a big day. As we speak, millions of shitposters are getting together in Nevada to storm Area 51 to see them aliens. At the same time millions of children are skipping school today and going on a global climate strike. These events may seem odd in contrast against one another, but there is an underlying logic that is guiding the evolution of society.

There is a common thread in much of society today regarding culture and all our experiences- the concept of what is "normal" is being challenged. What was once thought to be impossible and absurd has become possible and commonplace. In the midst of the common absurdities of our time and the collective existential angst created by a global environmental crisis, it is not surprising to see people challenging the notion of what is considered to be normal as the very foundations of our reality come apart beneath us. Whether it is the election of a clueless racist plutocrat or memes about storming Area 51 to see them aliens, the signs are everywhere that the world not only doesn’t make sense anymore – it simply has gone batshit crazy.

But the change we are going through goes far deeper than that.

We have always had a neat view of what “normal” is and what is considered “abnormal”. Everything has always fit into those categories because we have always had, more or less, a shared view of reality. Even if we disagreed whether something was normal or abnormal, we still agreed that it fits into one or the other category because we agreed there is some reality that we share, even if we don’t know exactly what that reality is. That notion of a shared mind-independent reality as the foundation of everything that we know is coming apart and the edifices we built on top of that foundation are falling like a house of cards. Hence, in every area of human experience, there is a sense of change that is more significant than a simple transition. It’s a revolution in the making.

The idea of that which is "normal" is fundamentally flawed. There is no normal or abnormal, those ideas don't actually describe anything in the real world, they merely reflect our personal experiences of the world. We are slowly waking up to the fact that there is no shared independent reality in the sense which we tend to think of it but rather that we each live within our individual reality which emerges from our perceptions and interactions with our environment. This translates into a multi-modal conception of the universe, where each individual lives within their own parallel dimension within the universe.

The signs are everywhere. In physics, quantum phenomena have been challenging our notion of reality for the past century. In linguistics, Benjamin Whorf has shown that our linguistic patterns determine how we perceive the world, literally creating our perception of reality. Meanwhile, philosophers have been challenging the notion of a shared reality for centuries. David Hume showed that there is no connection between causes and effects. We see that one event follows another, but all that we see is the conjunction of events in the order of cause and then effect. At some point of detail, we can identify a logical connection between the cause and the effect, but we never directly perceive it in a mind-independent way. If we go further, taking all of his work into account, and think about his “missing shade of blue”, we come to the realization that the reality we perceive is generated by our imagination. We infer from logic the connection between cause and effect and then perceive that logical connection through our imagination. What we perceive is the logical nature of the universe represented through visual symbols designed by our imagination. The reality we perceive around us is the result of our imagination.

All these different perspectives are slowly coming together and forming a cohesive new view of what reality is. All these different perspectives are evidence that we don’t live within a mind-independent shared reality, but rather that we create our shared reality through our language and interactions.

Every step we take closer to the real reality it becomes more and more clear that what we thought was real was nothing real at all, and that reality is something else entirely. Some of us may have reached it individually, but there has never been a collective consciousness about it. It is likely that we will either evolve to gain a deeper understanding of reality or we will go extinct. The idea that we can struggle with a global environmental crisis while not understanding the real conception of reality seems to be shortsighted. It is clear that the human systems that comprise society are broken and that we need new systems that structure our lives in a different way. We need to find a way to bridge our perspectives so that we can gain a shared awareness of the world and thus actually inhabit a shared reality. But it is important to note that this shared reality doesn’t exist -we are creating it. We must all come to the realization that we create reality together, even if we don't all understand the physics, linguistics and philosophy that explains how that shared reality comes together. We may each individually have a consciousness and live within our own individual reality but we also share a consciousness and create a shared reality through our words and our actions.

Welcome to the postnormal era. Enjoy the apocalypse!

(PS: "apocalypse", from the Greek "Αποκάλυψη", “revelation”)

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