Knowledge in a population

ISSN 2567-6458, 17.August 2022 – 17 August 2022
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch


This text is part of the text SUSTAINABLE EMPIRICAL THEORY which belongs to subject COMMON SCIENCE as Sustainable Applied Empirical Theory, besides ENGINEERING, in a SOCIETY. It is a preliminary version, which is intended to become part of a book.

Knowledge in a population

While a ‘theory as such’ has no relationship to the the concepts ‘sustainability’ [24] or ‘sustainable development’ [25], there exists an increasing understanding of the central role of knowledge mediating all kinds of actions.(cf. [26]). This importance of knowledge is to some degree supported by the sustainable development goal 4 (SDG4).[27],[26]

Although there exist — as ever — multiple definitions of ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable development’, one can identify some core ideas which seem to be important.(cf. [23]). To get a ‘unified view’ of all the different aspects it is needed to establish a ‘meta view’ which does this job. And this requirement points to the dimension of SDG4 additionally expanded by the necessity of a knowledge sphere which can handle a maximum of diversity by a maximum of life-sustainable forecasts.

To match these far reaching requirements it will not be sufficient to refer solely to the concept of an ’empirical theory I’ — as described above –, but one has to extend the concept to an ’empirical theory II’. This is motivated by the fact, that the ‘knowledge sphere’ as such is not interacting with the real world external to the bodies. For such interactions the knowledge needs a body, and not only one body but as many bodies as possible, which physically are interacting with the body-external empirical world. Besides knowledge the bodies will by these interactions receive that support with materials which has to be ‘consumed’ because it is necessary for the life of bodies. The ‘increase in the number of bodies’ during the time has increased material effects of human bodies onto the biosphere as well as on the external world beyond the biosphere.

Guided by the knowledge sphere these bodies can ‘behave’ in a way, which keeps the body-external world ‘functioning’ as a ‘life-bubble’ which can be understood as a substantial part of the whole universe. Analogous to the phenomenon of language the human based knowledge too is always being more than a self-sustained entity; it is a phenomenon resulting from being distributed in many brains which partially are interacting with their bodies and thereby with each other. As history shows it was not language alone which enabled an increasing powerful communication between human brains. It was the appearance of cultural technologies like writing, preserving documents, books, libraries, printing technologies, the computer, and lately computer networks as cyberspace [28], which enabled an increasing exchange.

But communication technology as such can process only the ‘material side’ of communication, the diverse patterns of expressions which as such have no ‘meaning’! The phenomenon of ‘meaning’ is still rooted inside the brains. Until today there exists no kind of communication technology which enables to deal with ‘inside meaning’ while practicing ‘external communications’. Thus the quantitative increase in communication entities does increase a space of ‘possible meaning’ with regard to possible real brains if they would become connected to these communication entities. But real brains in real bodies have a ‘limited size’ with ‘limited processing capacities’. Thus the increase in external communication technologies associated with an increase in the ‘material amount’ of these is not automatically accompanied with an increased processing in the individual body-brain units. During 2006 the author of this text introduced for this phenomena the term ‘negative complexity’ (cf. [29], [30]). This points to the fact that an increase in external world complexity with regard to the processing of the communication entities can turn into a ‘negative complexity’ if the processing capacity is too small. Thus the shear increase in the amount of communication entities accompanied by distributed individual processing units is loosing its ‘integration’ with the ‘active meanings’ in these individual processing units. Because human brains beside their ‘cognitive dimension’ are also equipped with an ’emotional dimension’ this emotional dimension will usually react to this ‘diminishing cognitive ordering of things’ with different kinds of emotions; these will try to stabilize the cognitive dimension with cognitive states which ‘appear as order’ but indeed are ‘fake constructions’. These can navigate the real bodies in the real world in a way which can increase a growing ‘mismatch’ between ‘knowledge’ and the ‘real world’.

With these considerations a ‘picture of a human actor’ is induced which consists of (i) a body which has to ‘consume’ and which can ‘induce effects’ on the body-external world as well onto the brain in this body, (ii) a brain with at least two dimensions: (ii.1) an ‘emotional’ dimension which has the ‘primary management’ of the ‘human system’ , and (ii.2) a ‘cognitive’ dimension which has the job of ‘ordering’ all the many and diverse signals flowing into the brain from the body as well as to generate possible ‘reactions’ inside and outside the body, extended by the language component which enables an ‘encoding’ of cognitive entities in expressions. And, as we know today, (iii) the brain is a ‘system’ which includes an ‘ontogenetic development’ accompanied by a ‘continuous adaptation’ (often called ‘learning’) of the available signals by predefined processing patterns. Furthermore we know that about 99% of the brain activities are ‘unconscious’.

In the real world there are never individual systems alone but always ‘populations’ of individual systems which only together can survive. Thus human kind as a whole is acting in the body-external world of the even greater population of ‘all living biological species’ forming the ‘biosphere’ which is localized today on the planet earth. The planet earth is finite and follows certain patterns of change. What the earth is, how it ‘dynamically behaves’, which kind of ‘future’ the earth has — including the biosphere — is either somehow ‘encoded’ in the cognitive dimension of human brains or is not in existence. To get an ‘all-embracing picture’ of everything would require the integration of the cognitive dimension of all brains with their bodies.

!!! — will be continued — !!!


wkp-en := Englisch Wikipedia

[23] By Clark, William C., and Alicia G. Harley –, Clark, William C., and Alicia G. Harley. 2020. “Sustainability Science: Toward a Synthesis.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 45 (1): 331–86, CC BY-SA 4.0,

[24] Sustainability in wkp-en:

[25] Sustainable Development in wkp-en:

[26] Marope, P.T.M; Chakroun, B.; Holmes, K.P. (2015). Unleashing the Potential: Transforming Technical and Vocational Education and Training (PDF). UNESCO. pp. 9, 23, 25–26. ISBN978-92-3-100091-1.

[27] SDG 4 in wkp-en:

[28] Thomas Rid, Rise of the Machines. A Cybernetic History, W.W.Norton & Company, 2016, New York – London

[29] Doeben-Henisch, G., 2006, Reducing Negative Complexity by a Semiotic System In: Gudwin, R., & Queiroz, J., (Eds). Semiotics and Intelligent Systems Development. Hershey et al: Idea Group Publishing, 2006, pp.330-342

[30] Döben-Henisch, G.,  Reinforcing the global heartbeat: Introducing the planet earth simulator project, In M. Faßler & C. Terkowsky (Eds.), URBAN FICTIONS. Die Zukunft des Städtischen. München, Germany: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2006, pp.251-263