Toward a ‘Transactional’ Cosmology: Web Dynamics for the Information Age

“We’ve gone from a lunar world, where we measured everything in terms of days, weeks and months, to a transactional world, where every single transaction has to be part of your decision-making process.” — Colin Powell, December 14 2008

Each information transaction, sometimes as exemplary, sometimes as single element added to a sweeping aggregate of historical sway, is a precedent, which can motivate, influence or redirect the push of future happenstance. And, we must take note, every transaction involving matter or energy contains information, traces of a history of its coming into being, and generates a “footprint”, a trace of its appearance and its transition into something beyond the transactional moment.

The information age gives us a vast wealth of knowledge, or of a kind of knowledge, what we take to be knowledge, about the world, hints which are also indicators, though not predictors, indicators because they play a role in expressing current interest, embedded in human activity, and so in framing future expressions of human interest.

A transactional cosmology sees an interplay of resources, overlapping vectors of sometimes disparate knowledge-sets and creed-assertions, a vital climate of investment, of beings into beings, of cultures into cultures, of histories into histories, of methods into methods, willpower into willpower, communicty into community, potential into potential, outcome into outcome. Such a cosmology allows us to see occurrence, progression, insistence, persistence, even entropy and erosion, as non-linear, making possible a fuller, more precise understanding of how things come to be and what we can do to urge better results into being.

The resilience of vital life-supporting webs of persistent transaction, for instance, can be seen to underpin all transactions across the web of incident, recombination and dissolution, we claim as our own, as the human world. “Transaction” is not merely a reference to commercial exchange, to the monetary fabric of traditional economics, to guesses about what people intend or demand from an interactive world of community and human moral regulation and creative expresssion: it is, more deeply, more comprehensively, a way of approaching the dynamics of ecological interchange, of web-dynamics, of the immensity of competing and overlapping social fabrics that promote or diminish the strengths of the individual in her environment.

Time—as we have measured it traditionally—is dictatorial, linear, categorized and categorizing in the extreme. Yesterday cannot be today. The 19th century cannot be the 21st. It is impossible for 31 December 1999 to fall on a Thursday, because it fell on a Friday. Saturday was the year 2000. The idea of time, our preconceptions about how it feels, how it moves, what it intends, what it is helpless to do to be different, our customary way of talking about time, could have caused global calamity, if certain precautions were not taken to avoid the glitches that should have accompanied the inevitable arrival of Y2K. Some potential remedies explored included infecting computers on a massive scale with “virus” codes that would turn back their clocks, possibly doing it while presenting to the end-user a proper date.

Time is, ultimately, illusion. It is real, but it is about perspective, not about plunging along a straight line down, down, down into the dark, unknowable future. It is an impression, it is a representation of our senses, and their combined experience of the process of receiving one impression after another, in sequence, which in our awareness says time is passing. A better way to look at the question of time is by way of synthesis and entropy, or entropy and what R. Buckminster Fuller called anti-entropy. There are ways of applying knowledge to the reality surrounding us, so that we prevent, or put off a given instance of entropy, and conserve or remake something of the order of things that gives us our experience.

Entropy is the breakdown of systems. Organs are systems made up of cells, which are made up of molecular and chemical phenomena working together to create a more or less harmonious whole. At the organic scale, those systems collaborate to provide for the metabolic integrity of an organism, a being whose combined functions are provided for by the component organs, at an unconscious level, beyond our will or control. But we know enough about the systems of the body to push back the onset of catastrophic entropy.

We can prevent the heart from breaking down permanently. Within a narrow window of opportunity, a few minutes usually. We can “restore” brain function, if we do the right thing, quickly enough, to prevent its structure from being disassembled by lack of inter-organic activity and chemical impulse. The body is a transactional phenomenon. The mind is transactional, its speed and health rooted, we think, in the efficiency with which its neural structure can produce “connections” across synapses, making patterns that appear to us as conscious awareness of specific realities.

The metabolic functions of the body, processing energy inputs and expending energy, are transactional, infusing the body’s tissues with shares of energy corresponding to factors too numerous and variable to count. So, there is a direct impact on our way of contemplating human health and related issues, from adopting a transactional cosmology. But beyond human health, human interaction, obviously, and our interactions with the natural environment, which includes—as a massive assemblage of those interactions—the built environment as medium, the expansion of our economic examinations to an ecological level, must be a major component of our work to fashion a world more balanced, more resilient in the face of the pressures we exert.


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First published January 6, 2009, at

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