Scybernethic(s) Summary

As explaining scybernethics is a rather complex perspective, mostly in scholar terms, I have decided to propose a summary of each chapter of the text:

Table of Contents

What is scybernethic(s)?

Scybernethics, as discussed in the article, is an approach that seeks to unite the dualities of mind and body, subject and object, and self and world, through an existential enaction of creative cognition and technological hermeneutics. This approach recognizes that cognition and life are interrelated and aims to cultivate a second-order rationality that promotes ethical and meaningful engagement with the world. In essence, scybernethics is an attempt to forge a new way of being in the world that acknowledges our interconnectedness with the environment and each other, and seeks to bridge the gap between subjective experience and objective reality.


The author proposes the use of the enactive paradigm as a tool for exploring the relationship between a professional cognitive scientist/philosopher and their own common sense. The author is trained in biology and cognitive sciences and views all paradigms and theories as different ways of seeing and thinking. A preceding study by Claire Petitmengin has explored the process of intuition using a combination of first and second person perspectives and meditation. The author proposes an original approach to these questions, combining enactive thinking and knowledge/cognitive technologies for self-transformation on a scientific, epistemological, and existential level, which the author refers to as an “ars.” The author views enaction as a reflexive and lived form of self-awareness, and a technology and aesthetic of the self.

1. Introduction

The author is writing from a Varelian inspired enactive paradigm and has a background in biological (techno)science and a personal interest in the questions of “What is life?” and “How to think differently?” He has developed a concept of “creative cognition” through research in enactive and second-order cybernetic perspectives and will present his approach in the text, including his understanding of models and computer simulations. He will also introduce his “prototypical experiential device” and how he used a combination of scholarship and self-writing to design a formal genetical ontology. The author will also discuss his personal approach to computer simulations of artificial cognition as an “experimental epistemology” and the importance of Parallel and Distributed Processing models.

2. Drawing a distinction – creative cognition, intuition and body sense-making

The author is discussing “creative cognition,” which refers to the experience of creating meaningful concepts in our consciousness. He is specifically addressing the “know-what” aspect of this process, which is generated by the implicit “know-how.” He note that intuition is not considered as evidence, but rather as a complex process between the self, valid scholarly knowledge, and computer simulations of artificial cognition. The author also mentions two other interesting aspects of creative cognition, including the coordination of the sensory-motor loop and body acting in the environment and the concept of living in a “philosophical body.” He mention two works in this field, Richard Shusterman’s somato-aesthetics and Evan Thompson’s enaction.

3. Methodological strategy

3.1 About second-order thinking

The author introduces a graphical convention of using “concept²” to represent second-order concepts or notions. Second-order concepts are not just “the concept of the concept” but also “the conceptualization itself” in relation to “the concept of the conceptualizer.” This leads to a self-transforming and embodied knowledge experience. The author also introduces the “ambijective gesture,” which is the internal gesture of co-determining the objective and subjective polarities of any distinction in the act of knowing. This results in a formalization cyclic process that is a re-appropriation and re-presentation of implicit self-knowledge. The author concludes by mentioning that they will delve deeper into second-order thinking and complement it with a dialectical approach later in the text.

3.2 Important ethical and methodological tools

3.2.1 Homeostasis

The author uses the word “homeostasis” as a metaphor for the slight imbalances in our biological balance that make us alive and sensitive beings.

3.2.2 Suspension of judgement and excluded middle

The author learned about the idea of suspension of judgement from a science fiction novel in their youth and has come to understand it as a tool for re-equilibrating the Aristotelian “excluded middle,” which was introduced to neutralize subjectivity and relativism in pursuit of valid knowledge. The author notes that this idea has evolved over time and that questions about the role of the observer and technology in the scientific process still remain today.

3.2.3 Levels of abstraction (and the “technology by itself” view subterfuge)

The author argues that the distinction between hardware and software in technology is a modern myth created by the accumulation of abstract layers of different programming languages. This leads to a confusion between the two levels and the idea of a machine being “intelligent” without considering the observer-actor involved in the equation. The author also points out that this view is perpetuated in the public space by techno-marketing and transhumanist rhetoric. The author believes that this understanding provides a way to think about the mind-body problem of consciousness, by considering the levels of abstractions involved and the impact of historical and cultural self-decentering technologies on it.

3.2.4 Gestalt-shifting character and point of view flexibility

The author believes that people often have unique perspectives and backgrounds that shape their views and that there is often implicit knowledge for complex reasons. The author also states that they are not an iconoclast.

3.2.5 Searching and modelizing “without representations and finality”

The author argues that the dominant cognitivist culture, expressed as a focus on problem solving, is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that it may seem counter-intuitive to let go of preconceived ideas. However, the author believes that in order to do science effectively, we must deprive ourselves of these preconceived ontologies. The author instead advocates for an “enactive perspective” where representations and finality are seen as being enacted by the subject’s activity in relation to the inquiry process, rather than being driven by external constraints. To truly understand the cognitivist problem-solving perspective, the author suggests considering its production context and adopting a “creative cognition” approach that explicitly deals with the first-person/third-person relationship in techno-science.

3.2.6 Cognitivism vs. enaction: and the winner is…?!

The author was first drawn to enaction because it offered a more comprehensive and integrative approach to cognition compared to cognitivism which focused more on the intellectual and socially normative side. The author is influenced by the cognitivist side of cognition but tries to approach it in a more hermeneutical way and considers it only as a possible way of thinking, not a normative one. The author believes that two main elements of cognitivist style are linear thinking and localization of representation, but challenges these through distributed representations and processual thinking which lead to functional thinking. The linear thinking style can be subverted through iterative second-order thinking cycles and a hermeneutic approach, leading to self-understanding and creative epistemological insights.

3.2.7 About enactive modelizing and simulations: “From computers which think to computers which make me think”

The author expresses gratitude to philosophers Bernard Stiegler and scholars inspired by Simondon for providing them with philosophical tools to think about and express their own experience with the technical dimension. The author also highlights the importance of considering the impact of technology on our lives and avoiding a return to a repressed state of technology. The author developed their modelization skills by studying biology, systemics, cybernetics and complex models. They see models and computer simulations as experimental and experiential tools and believe in the co-determination of the theoretics with its attentional object and methodology. The author also integrates the classical hypothetical-deductive/empirical scientific methodology with auto-phenomenological inquiry through the model/computer simulation loop. However, the author acknowledges that they could not develop their approach in real intersubjective empirical practices.

3.3 Functions as enacted iterations: an analytical of dynamical approaches

The author is discussing how computer science and PDP simulations have taught them to think in terms of iterative processes and analogical thinking. They also mention that functional computer simulations, even if done in a linear fashion, simulate a quasi-parallel processing, which can be used for our own edification. The author also mentions the relationship between analog and digital concepts in the field of techno-philosophy and cybernetics.

3.4 From dialectics tension to dialogics thinking: coping homeostatically and patiently with conceptual dipoles

The author proposes a practical approach to deal with the dialectical tension based on his own experience, following a previous proposal for an Hegelian inspired “neurodialectics” in the enactive field.

3.4.1 Conceptual dipoles

The author notes the importance of “conceptual dipoles” in structuring disciplinary theories and cognitive domains. These are two complementary or opposing linguistic terms, represented by a slash “/”. Examples include “linearity / circularity”, “space / time”, and “third person / first person point of views”. The author has developed their own creative approach to dealing with these concepts, and notes differences with the definitions put forth by Varela, who used similar concepts in his work. The author also mentions that Bateson used a similar slash notation in a different context.

3.4.2. The asymmetrical nature of the dipole and the ethical (self)imperative

The author always perceived a fundamental asymmetry between the two terms, where one was easier to define and the other was unclear. The author’s focus is on the “weak” side of the dipole, which is more difficult to grasp. However, excessive polarization in controversy tends to favor the “easy” polarity, which is more in agreement with the mechanical structure of causal explanations and expelling the subjective understanding.

3.4.3 The two distinctions in one

The author has noticed the importance of “conceptual dipoles” (two complementary or opposing linguistic terms) in structuring theories and cognitive domains. They have perceived a fundamental asymmetry between the two terms in a dipole, with one being “easy” to define and the other being more subjective and difficult to grasp. The author suggests adopting a second-order strategy by coupling and cycling between a long meta-epistemological and short phenomenological pathway to overcome the “blinding proximity of reality.” They also reject the idea of “quantum cognition” as a deceptive application of a mathematized concept to a specific object domain and a lack of ethical recognition of the subjectivity of science.

3.4.4 A systematical logic of knowledge exploration: in search for invariants, prototypical scheme and correlations

The author describes a method called “dialogic” introduced by Morin in 1986 which involves exploring a conceptual dipole (pair of opposing concepts) systematically. The method consists of understanding the two concepts distinctly, then together in their complementarity and context. The generated conception is then checked against valid scholarly knowledge to form a valid meta-perspective. The author emphasizes the importance of not accepting the paradoxical tension of the dipole immediately and instead keeping it in suspension to allow for embodied understanding to emerge. The process of accumulating suspensions can become complex and anxiogenic, so the author suggests using an hypomnemata as a tool to release pressure. The author believes that the body should guide and make the semantic synthesis, not the intellectual mind, by respecting one’s own homeostatic rhythms and being patient. The author describes this process as an educated thinking body that is not an impulse but a conscious and intelligent process leading to temporary semantic revelations. The author also mentions that this experience can be described as an aesthetic feeling of resolution and the reasonings gradually become like dances in space. The author believes this praxis is coherent with the “coupling approach” of Enactivism in philosophy.

4. Prototypical experiential device

4.1 My “Brain” and designing a reflexive genetical ontology: a first person enactive style of representing

The author’s “brain” is a mind-mapping tool called a semantic net, but they wanted something with more freedom in dimensionality. He chose a commercial product that offers a 2D hierarchical representation of items, but with the ability to make free relational links. Their “brain” contains 20,000 items organized in a way that is only decipherable by the author. It can be explored online at the link provided and has a search engine. It is a chronologically dated trace of the author’s learning and thinking and could one day be used to backtrack their thinking as an archaeologist. There is also a collaborative version of this software.

4.2 Models and simulation of a-cognition: the reflexive heuristics / hermeneutical cycle of representations in action

The author describes the “hermeneutics of technology” approach to observing and accessing the internal dynamics of artificial agents and robots. By simulating these agents and embedding them in an evolutionary algorithm, one can study the viability of the agent. The author also describes the view of artificial cognition as experiential epistemology, where one can experiment with the “anthropological constitutive polarity of the technics” by linking their knowledge of the dynamics to their own internal gestures. This approach leads to new attentional perspectives and reinitializes the hermeneutical and heuristic cycles. The author calls this living phenomenological experience of the technics “tekhnicus,” inspired by Bourdieu’s habitus. The author also discusses the influence of works by Bachimont, Winograd and Flores, Hutchins, and Zovko. This understanding led the author to converge towards the distributed and parallel processing paradigm and to stabilize a dynamical internal gesture as a form of enacting.

5. Enacted results – regulative patterns and rhythms

5.1 Ceteris paribus (natural sciences) / mutatis mutandis (human and social sciences)

The author’s methodologies and ethical/deontological commitments can be interpreted as arising from both natural science and human/social science epistemologies. This is not surprising as the author is part of the cognitive domain being studied. The process can be compared to the concept of “double hermeneutics” in social sciences and to the idea of “causes and conditions” in Buddhist philosophy.

5.2 First trivial emergence

The author’s first discovery was the emergence of a trinity of intellectual thinking, language, and body in their phenomenological understanding. This realization showed that even when trying to avoid projecting pre-conceptual categories, these categories still emerged as meaningful from their eclectic practices, leading the author to trust in their self-knowing process.

5.3 The enacted quasi-bidimensional formal prototype

The author found a “formal quasi-bidimensionality” in their practices, which was a meaningful pattern that couldn’t be reduced to a clear context. The author found correlations with “double intentionality” in other works and is still trying to understand the meaning of “intentionality.” He believe intentionality is a fundamental and primordial bio-conscious gesture, rather than a defined and formalized form.

5.4 Relational thinking without relational realism: an indirect question to Simondon’s approach

The author discusses the emergence of a “formal quasi-bidimensionality” in their practice, which refers to a pattern of a clear formal dimension and an unclear orthogonal dimension that cannot be reduced to the formal dimension. This pattern was stabilized into a “quasi-quadrilectic schemata” or diagrammatization, which represented knowledge in the form of a cubic matrix. However, the author found that the schema was missing aspects of the problematic and needed to be added onto for further depth, resulting in a fractal effect of self-reflection. The author found that the aesthetic feeling of their discovery strategy followed a spiral shape, linked to the golden proportion, which confirmed their understanding of the analogy of proportionality as a ratio of ratios. The author found the best explanation of the form in Thomas Aquinas, who said that being is analogous and not univocal or equivocal, but a proportionality analogy. The author concludes that relation is deconstructed and driven towards a “groundless ground” realm.

5.5 From the cybernetics of the cybernetician to second-order enaction

The article discusses second-order thinking and how it could be applied to second-order enaction or enaction². Second-order enaction involves “an enaction of enaction” and “an enaction of the enacting,” leading to “the enaction of the enactor.” The article suggests taking a detour through the “long” (meta)epistemological pathway and the “short” phenomenological pathway to approach this concept.

5.6 Enacting reflexive thinking : the circle quadrature, the uroboros / Moebius ribbon and hacker ethics

The author discusses second-order thinking as a tool to deconstruct formal thinking and move towards the “processual dimension”. This involves becoming aware of cognitive blind spots and uncovering the implicit conditions of knowledge production. The process leads to new conceptions and research in an infinite circle of production, and is limited by our own finitude and limits.

5.7 Form / Processus: taking care of the pharmakon (gestures and orthopraxis)

The author proposes a practical definition of “form” as anything that can be mentally or physically designated, which is related to the concept of eigenform and the idea of meaningful gestalt. The “processual dimension” of an object or phenomenon cannot be fully formalized and is best understood as a mix of flux, ambiguity, and subjective feeling. The distinction between a “process” and a “processus” is important, as the former is an incomplete or reduced form of the latter. The processual dimension is what makes life fundamentally unobjectifiable and points to a limit of direct approach by classical scientific reason, but can be explored through iterative first-hand lived experience. The author draws parallels with concepts such as phenomenological intentionality and “patterns that connect” and suggests that understanding the processual dimension requires a nuanced, disciplined ana-logical process.

5.8 The dialectical transduction between dipole polarities

The author notes the importance of ethical considerations when importing models or paradigms from one field to another, particularly between natural and social sciences or between natural science and technology. They discuss the idea of “transduction” between forms and processes and how it relates to changes in perspective or level of abstraction. The concept of the “zigzag” model, as used by Bateson and Gendlin, is introduced as an example. The author also notes historical shifts between knowledge-based normative constraints and technological advancements.

5.9 The surplus of meaning and the necessary defect

The “processual dimension” is a non-objectifiable and incalculable aspect of cognition that is necessary for sense-making. It is similar to Varela’s concept of the “imaginary” dimension that induces a surplus of meaning and is the mother of intentionality. This dimension is also present in Stiegler’s idea of the necessary defect and in Buddhism’s concept of Śūnyatā, which is not a form of nothingness but a philosophical tool to guide meditative practice. The author warns against the instrumentalization of relational realism by the techno-industry to justify the emergence of “thinking machines.” Meditative techniques are a way to tame and understand this processual dimension, which is the “mother of sense-making.” The reader should consider the author’s “ambijective gesture” and “dialogical dialectics” when interpreting this concept.

5.10 From “artificial neural nets” to models of phenomenological intentionality

The author discusses the emergence of the sciences of cognition and the significance of the (neo)connectionist approach in cognitive science. The approach, represented by the PDP (Parallel and Distributed Processing) model, can be understood as distributed representation and/or distributed processing, exhibiting cognitive-like properties. The author argues that the PDP model can be interpreted as a dynamical model of the ontological-being side of phenomenological intentionality, which provides a solution to the “Moebius” formal turn of the ribbon, or the explanatory gap between cognitive emergences and the biological substratum.

5.11 From a mathematical theory of communication without semantical dimension toward the living process of in-formation

The article discusses Claude Shannon’s contributions to the field of information theory, including his application of Boolean algebra to electrical circuits and his 1948 article “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” which is considered the founding article of the new “theory of information”. Shannon’s conception of information was not related to semantics, but rather focused on signal transmission and statistical abstraction. This abstract theory of information is important to consider when studying autonomous cognitive entities and intelligent living beings. Shannon was also one of the four initiators of the 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, which is considered the founding event of the AI perspective.

5.12 From computers in nature to the nature of automatic computing machines

The author discusses the history of computing machines, including the Vienna Circle, Hilbert, Godel, Shannon, Turing, von Neumann, Wiener, and the emergence of artificial intelligence. They argue that the computer is a special quasi-machine that can simulate other machines, but that it also “machines” humans in its interaction with them. The author suggests that using computers can be normative and alienating, and that knowing the machine is the only way to avoid being controlled by it. They advocate for deconstructing the machine and bringing active life into the equation to use it in service of humans.

5.13 Dealing with the computational complexity threshold

The author describes how they have used computer simulations to understand the relationships between parallel and distributed processing and behaviors. They argue that this is necessary because humans cannot directly think about processes, but can objectify them through a (quasi) second-order machine. They also discuss the 1948 von Neumann complexity conjecture, which suggests that there is a human complexity threshold beyond which the description of a structure becomes simpler than that of its properties. The author suggests that this is a limitation of the scientist’s own cognitive ability to describe complexity. Through bottom-up computer simulation, it is possible to explore emergent behaviors and gain procedural knowledge about the relationship between local properties and global behavior. Finally, the author discusses cognitive limits in dealing with information overload, and suggests that the use of a memory prosthesis can help to overcome this.

5.14 Technologies as externalized and encapsulated gestures

The author discusses the concept of technologies as externalized gestures, which can lead to the progressive loss of human know-how and distance between consciousness and bodily experience. Writing was a first important technological step that expanded democratization, but with the rise of numerical informational technologies and deep learning, our intimate cognitive know-how is being extracted, potentially leading to a loss of savoir vivre and creativity. The current global system is becoming creatively sterile, and the author sees this as an opportunity for human understanding and creativity to flourish.

5.15 The civilized rhythm of formalization and the synchronized logics of mechanical thinkings

The collapse of the Broughton Bridge in 1831 due to soldiers marching in unison illustrates the “mechanical rhythm” of thinking in which form precedes process, a pattern seen in language, logic, and cognitive science. This mode of thinking, in which a gesture of designation coordinates sensory-motor loops, has led to a global resonance between mechanical disciplines such as economics, mathematics, and artificial intelligence, which reinforces cultural and rhetorical power. This resonance has resulted in a crisis of western rationality, contributing to the anthropocene and metacrisis, and revealing that our way of thinking is out of touch with reality.

5.16 Scybernethic(s) and oriental style

The author sees similarities between their way of thinking and some Eastern philosophies, such as the absence of ontology and theology and the idea that reality is in a state of constant change, as seen in traditional Chinese and Taoist thought.

5.17 The quasi-double “middle-way thinking”

The author discusses their understanding of the “middle way” from the Buddhist tradition, which they view as a quasi-bidimensional pathway towards a “slightly unbalanced equilibrium” that allows for life to be active and sensitive. They also describe the middle way in terms of double hermeneutical circles and the “ambijective gesture” that draws distinctions while recognizing interdependence. The author emphasizes that the middle way is not a one-dimensional “grey” synthesis, but a path between nihilism and absolutism.

5.18 Scybernethic(s): designing a second-order rationality as a processual and complex practice

The author describes scybernethic(s) as their rational point of view and a second-order enaction of the enactor and enacting. It is their way of being and seeing the world through double coupled cycles, which is a comprehensive and non-iconoclast second-order rationality. Scybernethic(s) is a regulatory paradigm and an attentional and attentive self-technique dealing with historical, sociological, cultural, and technological constraints with body sense-making and orientation. It involves a co-determined understanding of time in a processual dimensionality.

6. Conclusion

6.1 Drawing a timely and partial synthesis

The author emphasizes the importance of ethics, which is implicit, and proposes a comprehensive second-order rationality, called scybernethics, as a lever to understand all living organisms. This can be achieved through various approaches, such as the dialogical dialectics, the quasi-bidimensional and quasi-quadrilectical forms, and the moëbius-like uroboros pathway. The author suggests that we need to create an attentional and understanding shift and a bifurcation of lived and incarnated humans through a complex second-order phylo-scientific rationality coupled with a democratic bio-techno politics of citizens. The author also notes the need to write a history of theories of self-knowledge.

6.2 The ongoing fouth industrial revolution [and now the more visible genAI disruption 03/23]

The author argues that the current trend of objectifying humans in the human/machine interactive dipole is a fallacy, and that the overuse of metaphors like “memory”, “learning”, and “intelligence” in describing machines is dangerous. They warn of the excesses of cognitive capitalism and attentional and experiential marketing, and urge for the re-integration of an ethically educated subject into the techno-scientific process. The author also sees opportunities in the access to information and education, and in building a constructive dialogue with emerging oriental cultures.

6.3 Suturing to not forget the forgettings: anamnesia (Plato)

The author argues that our western civilization has prioritized explicit knowledge and technological advancement at the cost of a deeper understanding of the self and the social fabric, leading to a destructive control that is destroying life and resources. They suggest that we need a “pharmakology” of attentional techniques to reconnect with the body and participatory sense-making, and create an attentional care towards our sense of the “commons”. The author acknowledges that all is not lost, but we need to prioritize critical, creative, hermeneutical, and ethical self-transforming possibilities.

6.4 Toward interbeing enaction

The author believes that there is important work to be done in studying the similarities and differences between Varela and Simondon to develop an enactive “science of interbeing”. However, they caution against subverting the subject/object relation with an abstract and formal third-person “relational realism” ground, as it could lead to techno-economic instrumentalization and the forgetting of the vital dimension. They emphasize the need to be careful not to fall into normativity and instead focus on the possible emancipators of conscious meaning-making embodied in the lived first-person perspective. The author also mentions the promising work of Hanna De Jaegher and Di Paolo around enactive participatory sense-making in developing an enactive approach to ecological and social intersubjectivity.

6.5 A last (auto)po(i)etic word

The author suggests that humans are like the ambijective gesture of nature, trying to be conscious of itself through civilization and personal development. They argue that life is cognition and cognition is life, like a self-reflection of the cosmos. The author believes that it is time to return home with all the revelations of the objectivist journey to share and care. They conclude by stating that ethics should be the priority and is a know-how, while love is defined as having a relationship based on one’s interest in the aliveness of the other person.

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