TLO's Circles of Awareness & Concern


Today and tomorrow.

These two time frames -- today and tomorrow --  are constructs that we all use to understand our lives. They're the slices of time we use to think about the ways people and events flow through our lives, the ways they move us forward. Phrases like now and thenthe present and the future, and today and tomorrow are the verbal trestles on which we hang our sense of what we're a part of today, and what's going to be happening to us tomorrow.

This two-frame way of thinking about the people and events that populate our "todays," as well as all the future people, events, and phenomena that might be in our "tomorrows" is one of the most useful metaphorical tools we have. I'd never suggest that it's anything but an effective way for us to picture our lives.

A Second Way

However, today, in this blog I want to offer you a second way of imagining your life. A way of thinking about our lives that’s a more nuanced way of understanding the fresh expectations and the new demands that the 21st Century’s most disruptive innovations and radical possibilities are pushing at us. In particular, I want to offer you a way to more concretely grasp what, for most of us, are  distant issues -- phenomena 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, all the things that you're sort of aware of, but aren't. Not really. 

I call this new way of imaging the todays and tomorrows of our lives the “Three Circles of Awareness and Concern.” Here's a visual that describes this way of imaging these current and distant futures:

Circles of Awareness.jpg

Essentially, I think this model offers you three vantage points from which to view your life that are worth considering:

  • The First Circle of Awareness: This circle highlights the idea that every day each of us walks into the events in our lives implicitly guided by subconscious mindsets, beliefs, and stereotypes that tell us what's personally real, meaningful, and important. These beliefs are the unquestioned premises of our daily lives, our variations on the family-of-origin admonitions and life lessons that we first heard at the dinner table. They're the assumptions and presuppositions we've held to since childhood, the mindsets that anchor our sense of reality. Most importantly, they're the rationales behind the repetitive behaviors we use that show us how to get through our days. This First Circle of Awareness is a doorway that helps you discover the ways in which your family-of-origin’s modes of thinking create for you the repetitive worries and anxieties that keep you up at night.

  • The Second Circle of Awareness. This circle is the part of our unconscious mind that houses our personal adaptation of our culture’s worldview. This highlights the habitual modes of thinking that you use every day to perceive, interpret and respond to the world that’s outside yourself.. It’s in this circle where you can usefully wonder about when, where, and how your implicit, long-standing modes of thinking can into being and whether they’re keeping you from understanding and effectively responding to those aspects of your life that, over and over again, are creating the most confusing, problematic, 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 is the arena in which those of us who are willing to go really deep can examine the indecipherable, troublesome, or scary phenomena active in the world around us for the implications that they hold for us, our families, and our future lives. Here, the question to ask yourself is, "What or who are the distant conflicts, promethean individuals, and/or radically different paradigms that are active right now on the fringes of my consciousness that are worth learning more about? Once found, the question this Third Circle of Awareness & Concern asks is, "What do I need to do to bring forward at least some of the disruptive, challenging people, places, and innovations that I'm usually only implicitly aware of, to see what they might be saying to me about these phenomena that I ought to be more concerned about?"

The Three Circles of Awareness & Concern 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. It’s not something that gives you more finely-grained pictures of the life you're already living. Rather, this model is a way of asking you to consciously heighten your awareness of two rarely noticed phenomena: The incomprehensibly complex array of scary people, disruptive discoveries, revolutionary innovations, and unknown paradigms that, almost without your awareness, are concrete realities sitting just off the fringes of your consciousness. It's a model that asks you to think about the fresh ideas, new knowledge, amazing technologies, and scary paradigm shifts that are actually “out there” on the edges of your consciousness, hanging like errant chads on an election ballot, distant realities that deserve to be seen as issues of real interest and concern. 

Comprehending 21st Century Realities

I know all this sounds weird. But there are good reasons to pay attention to phenomena we've 'heard of' but really know nothing about. Mega-issues like climate change, white supremacy, globalization, Islamic terrorism, transgender rights, super intelligence, and trans-humanism. And phenomena like artificial intelligence, the Nano-Bio-Cogno Paradigm, and The Singularity. Each of these is an event, issue, or set of people that you've heard of but never fundamentally taken notice of. Together, each of these exists on the deep edges of society. They’re 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 your daily life. They're the distant lands where the Osama Bin Laden's, Kim Jong Un's, and Abubakar Shekau's of the world are scaring me and you to death. People, events, and new knowledge that we "know of," but have never taken real notice of. People, events, and new knowledge that, unnoticed, are nonetheless insistently shaping the new fabric of our lives.

Fundamentally, the Three Circles model suggests that each of us, in one way or another, feels these phenomena. We sense these vague figures, distant events, and invisible activities know they’re there, waiting on the outside edges of our perception. Available to us through our interest and attention; the as yet too scary phenomena to turn and face directly.

This model is also telling you something more. It's saying that "being vaguely aware" of these phenomena is OK, but that "knowing something about them" is altogether different levels of consciousness. And that actually "knowing something about" these apparitions is not quite the same thing as "being consciously aware of their concrete reality." Nor is it quite the same thing as "actually comprehending the implications they have for you, your family, and your life." Each distinction is a new, more sophisticated and personal way of grasping these seemingly unreal phenomena.

This Three Circles model is proposing the idea that fully comprehending at least something about these 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.

Available Knowledge and Information

Dozens of books exist regarding many of these new 21st Century issues, and there are dozens more about the significance of their emerging "convergence."

None of these books are "Chicken Little" prophesies. None forecast doom and gloom. None are apocalyptic prophesies. Rather, each is more like a "heads up" description of a radically new discovery or invention that right now, as you're reading this blog, is creating a new world for us. These books are new age roadmaps outlining the contours of a new world for those interested enough to become both aware of and concerned with what, in terms of adaptive thinking, is being ask of us . 

Here’s a short sample of these books:

  • Michael Annissimov: Our Accelerating Future; How Superintellignece, Nanotechnology and Transhumanism will Transform the Planet

  • William Bainbridge: Managing Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno Innovations: Converging Technologies in Society

  • Nick Bostrom: Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

  • Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity Is Near; When Humans Transcend Biology

  • John Markoff: Machines of Loving Grace; The Quest For Common Ground Between Humans and Robots

  • Christopher Muller: Prometheanism; Technology, Digital Culture, and Human Obsolescence

  • Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody; The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Stepping Into the three Circles

Rainer Rilke, in the early part of the 20th Century, wrote a poem titled "The Road Ahead," This poem speaks to the possibility of developing the kinds of awareness and concern that the The Three Circle model is pointing to. Rilke's poem describes how we can use our implicit awarenesses to discover distant realities. Without demanding anything, Rilke tells us it's possible to know "unknown" things. That, for example, it is possible to comprehend the possibilities that new phenomena like artificial intelligence, the Nano-Bio-Cogno Paradigm, or The Singularity are in the process of shaping for us. This is how Rilke says it:

“My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance—

and changes us, even if we do not reach it, into something else,
which, hardly sensing it, we already are;
a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave . . .
but what we feel is the wind in our faces."