You are a network within a network of networks (early draft)

We are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as one thing – a person, an entity with a unique identity. Because we have a persistent experience of continuous consciousness, which is by nature subjective, we also tend to think of ourselves as in some sense separate from the rest of the world.

When we step back and view ourselves from an external perspective, we notice that we each exist in a huge maze of greater entities. We humans exist as nodes within the many overlapping and integrated networks of the ecological and human world. A cursory examination of the flows of nature (e.g. air, land, water and various forms of life), built environment (roads, pipes, telecommunication networks), and human relationships (families, friends, organizations, nations) reveal that in every instance our internal world is conditioned by our existence in an outer world.

Moreover, when we dig a little more deeply, we start to realize that the body of each individual human can also be understood to serve as an ecology or network for all of the things going on inside it. Everything that exists within a human being can be construed to exist as a node, a connection among nodes and/or a combination of nodes and connections. Our organs exist within networks. Our neurons exist within networks. Our blood, lymph, hormones and neurotransmitters are generated and shared by nodes within these networks such as our veins, synapses. In our guts, we even house an astounding number and array of micro-organisms that make up our microbiome, which is in turn connected with other systems within our bodies. Recent research has revealed that we have a heretofore unrecognized organ called the interstitium that encases our organs and moves pre-lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

You are a network within a network of networks

To be human is to be a being with a unique set of network configurations creating connections among our internal networks as well as between our internal and external networks. Some of these connections are obvious. When we breathe in air, drink water or eat food this triggers biological changes that flow through our internal networks supporting the extension of our lives. Some are less obvious. I have read that when you are in a bar and there is a fight on the other end of the bar, a series of message is passed through the crowd so that even if you are unaware of the fight you experience physiological changes, such as increased heart rate.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve written and shared articles on many topics that may seem disparate and perhaps even in some cases irreconcilable. I’ve commented topics ranging from neuroscience to individual success strategies to group dynamics to human and natural ecologies to artificial intelligence. While the array of might at first appear incoherent, there is a theme that connects and integrates these themes. That theme is the nature of connection itself, particularly as it pertains to human existence. Without connections to other things, we cannot be human, but we are often at a loss for how to make sense of our subjective experience in the context of all those connections.

Here are some of the questions worth exploring as we try to make sense of our experience of being simultaneously separate and connected:

  1. How much control do I have over my own thoughts, choices, behavior and the impact of those behavior?
  2. In so far as I have control over the above, how can I maximize the benefits that emerge from that control?
  3. In so far as I do not have control over the above, how should I make sense of my experience of these things?
  4. How should I make sense of my connections to things in the external world, especially other people?
  5. What sort of impact can I expect to be able to have on others?
  6. What sort of impact should I at least try to have on others?
  7. What sort of impact should I expect that others may have on me?
  8. What should I do about that?
  9. What would be the ideal way for us (me and those I am connected with) to manage those connections to maximize the benefits for me, them and everything else?

(more to come on this post)

© Dana Cogan, 2024, all rights reserved.

Leave a Reply