TLO's Circles of Awareness & Concern


Today and tomorrow.

These two time frames -- today and tomorrow --  are constructs we all use to understand and manage our lives. Today and Tomorrow are the slices of time we use to think about our lives, especially the ways that people and events flow through them, the ways these people and events move us forward, throw us off course, and sometimes even hold us back. Phrases like now and thenthe present and the future, and today and tomorrow are the verbal trestles on which we hang our deepest sense of the people and events that we’re a part of. Usually, this two-frame way of thinking about the people and events that populate our lives is one of the most useful metaphorical tools we have. I'd never suggest that it's anything but an effective way for you to picture your life.

A Second Way

However, today I want to suggest that there’s a second way for us to frame our perception of and our understanding of the people and events in our lives. There’s another way we can think about these things that wlll help us understand the people and events in our lives better, a way that offers us a more effective way of grasping phenomena which, for most of us at this point in time are typically just distant, vaguely perceived issues: -- things like climate change, white supremacy, globalization, Islamic terrorism, transgender rights, super intelligence, and trans-humanism. As well as phenomena like artificial intelligence, the Nano-Bio-Cogno Paradigm, and The Singularity. In other words, a second way to understand all the things that we’re sort of aware of, but aren't. Not really. 

I call this new way of imaging the events and people in our lives, both those that are close to us and those that are distant, “The Three Circles of Awareness and Concern.” Here's a visual that depicts this way of imaging both our present and distant futures:

Circles of Awareness.jpg

Essentially, this model suggests that you can usefully construct for yourself three distinct vantage points from which to view the people and events in your life:

  • The First Circle of Awareness: This circle highlights the people and events that are in your life on a daily basis. This, of course, includes your family, your friends, and your coworkers. It includes the issues, challenges and opportunities that associating with these people brings to you. This circle also highlights the proposition that your perceptions and understanding of the people and events you’re with on a daily basis are guided by the implicit mindsets, beliefs, and stereotypes that you inherited from your family-of-origin and your schoolmates while you were growing up. This First Circle highlights the beliefs and values that are the unquestioned premises of your daily life, your variations on your family-of-origin’s admonitions and life lessons that you first heard at the dinner table. In the regard, this first circle offers you the opportunity to reflect on the values and beliefs that are behind the repetitive behaviors that you use to guide yourself through the day. The family, friends, and coworkers closest to you, and the modes of thinking that you first learned from your family-of-origin as the “best ways” to deal with them are phenomena that populates your First Circle of Awareness. As such, they’re the people and premises that define for you your current realities; they’re the memory traces that create for you the day to day worries and anxieties that keep you up at night.

  • The Second Circle of Awareness: This circle highlights the part of your unconscious mind that senses the people and events active in society that you’re aware of, but ignore. This circle points towards the habitual modes of thinking you learned at work and in your local community. It points to the belief systems and cognitive biases that you and your friends use every day to perceive, interpret and respond to the larger world that you’re living in, the city, state and nation that are “yours.” This Second Circle is the “place” where you can usefully wonder about when, where, and how your implicit, long-standing modes of thinking came into being, and whether these societal modes of thinking and feeling are keeping you from understanding and effectively responding to those aspects of your life that, over and over again, are creating the most confusing problems and threatening issues in your life. This circle is the doorway through which you can walk, if and when you become interested in asking yourself, “What is it that's hanging off the edges of my consciousness that’s so powerful, yet so indecipherable, troublesome, and/or scary that I never take the time to explore it?"

  • The Third Circle of Awareness: This circle highlights the “unthought knows” of all our lives. These unthought knows are the indecipherable, troublesome, or scary people and events active around the world that we barely sense but don’t, can’t, or won’t pause to take notice of. The Third Circle is that part of our unconscious that holds the issues and phenomena that carry long-distant implications for us, our families, and our future lives that we’re not yet ready to even acknowledge. This is the portion of our lives that light up when we ask ourselves, "What or who are the distant conflicts, promethean individuals, and/or radically different paradigms that right now are active on the fringes of my consciousness that are worth learning more about? Or a question like, "What do I need to do to bring forward at least some of the disruptive, challenging people, places, and innovations that I'm now only implicitly aware of so I can see what these issues and concerns might be saying to me about phenomena I ought to be more concerned about?"

Obviously, these three circles aren't just about stretching your ordinary two-frame way of experiencing your life out into a set of short, medium, and long-term images and stories. It’s not a technique that’s designed to simply gives you more finely-grained pictures of the life you're already living. Rather, this “three-frame” way of viewing your life is intended to be a way of consciously opening your awareness up to three phenomena that you’re almost never conscious of:

  1. The people living on the edges of your consciousness who are working on the new knowledge and amazing technologies that eventually will change our understanding of life, both here on earth and out into the galaxies of which we’re a part.

  2. The scary people and events living on the edges of your consciousness who are bringing energy and life to the movements of outrage and hope that Manuel Castells speaks about in all the books he’s written, especially in Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age.

  3. The people and events living on the edges of your consciousness who are slowly dismantling our traditional and modern worldviews in favor of the postmodern paradigm that, bit by bit, they’re slowly constructing all around us.

Comprehending 21st Century Realities

I know all this sounds weird. But there are good reasons for us to lift up our focus attention to see the phenomena we've 'heard of' but have never really know much about. Mega-issues like climate change, white supremacy, globalization, Islamic terrorism, transgender rights, super intelligence, and trans-humanism are all examples of the kinds of phenomena that are hanging of the edges of our consciousness. Phenomena that most of us have heard about, but actually know nothing substantive about them. As are phenomena like artificial intelligence, the Nano-Bio-Cogno Paradigm, and The Singularity. Each of these is an event, issue, or set of people that we’ve never taken any real notice of; yet all of them are issues of importance in the world. They’re the vague figures, distant events, and invisible activities that are coming alive in inaccessible laboratories and distant lands; all places where the Leonardo da Vinci's, Albert Einsteins, and Steve Jobs of today are hard at work creating the new technologies and innovations that are quietly shaping and driving your daily life. They're also the distant lands where the Osama Bin Laden's, Kim Jong Un's, and Abubakar Shekau's of the world are leading movements that are scaring us to death. People, events, and new knowledge that we "sense," but have never taken real notice of. People, events, and new knowledge that, unnoticed, are nonetheless insistently shaping our lives new practicalities.

The base assertion here is simple: The people and events populating this Three Circles of Awareness model suggests that each of us, in one way or another, feels these vague and distant phenomena, no matter how obscure they might be. In todays interconnected world, we cannot help but respond viscerally to the signs and symbols that depict these vague figures, distant events, and invisible activities. In one way or another, we “sense” they’re there. We may not know exactly what they are, but we sense something important is there. Waiting on the outside edges of our perception. Available to us through our intuition, interest and attention. “As yet phenomena” that feel too scary to turn and face directly.

But, this model is also suggesting that while "sensing” these phenomena is OK, "knowing” something about them is better, an altogether different level of consciousness. And that, while “knowing” something about them is good, it’s not the same thing as being “consciously aware” of their concrete reality. And beyond this, that being “consciously aware” of these issues is not nearly us good and useful as "actually understanding” the implications these distant issues and people have for you, your family, and your life." In other words, each step is a different level of consciousness, and a new level of 21st century competence. Sensing something, knowing something, and consciously understanding something are each, in a “three circles way,” whole new levels of consciousness and competence.

In short, this Three Circles model is proposing the idea that fully comprehending something about distant individuals and the tools, technologies, and innovations they're inventing is important. It's proposing that, at this point in history, comprehending something about Abubakar Shekau's Boko Haram brand of Islamic terrorism, Mark Sagar and his "AI baby", or Bill Bainbridge's Nano-Bio-Cogno hypotheses can be a way of more effectively and meaningfully imagining, understanding, and guiding the life your living. It can be a way that opens up whole new levels of awareness and concern that will transform your sense of and perception of the world you're living in. And the challenges and possibilities that are yours to face, and possibly take advantage of