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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.3 Pretoria  2008


Die invensie van 'n toekoms 2: Taal, betekenisvolle inligting en toekomsinvensie


The invention of the future 2: Language, meaningful information and the invention of the future



C S De Beer

Departement Inligtingkunde, Universiteit van Pretoria, Pretoria.




In die vorige artikel is beklemtoon tot watter mate taal in sy volheid die moontlikhede vir 'n toekoms oopmaak. Op hierdie stadium is dit belangrik om te waarsku dat die stroping van taal die mens van 'n toekoms beroof. Om taal in die volle rykheid daarvan te benut is dit belangrik om inventiewe denke daarvoor in te span. Taalbenutting kan baie bydra tot wysheidsdenke, akritiese denke en mediterende denke om die inventiewe moontlikhede wat dit bied oop te maak.
Hierdie denke bring ons uit by die konfigurering van betekenisvolle inligting, by die besinning oor 'n toereikende mensbeeld in terme waarvan aan toekomsinvensie gewerk kan word. Die mens as beliggaamde wese wat vibreer van lewe en gees kan nie alleen as individu 'n toekoms inventeer nie. Behalwe vir die noodsaaklike omhelsing van lewe in'n tyd waarin dit soms lyk asof die doodsdrif ons lot bepaal, vra dit ook om kollektiewe aktiwiteite waar kollektiewe intelligensies gepoel word om intelligente gemeenskappe te stig waarbinne liefde, respek, en sorg eerder as blote konsumpsie, verbruik en misbruik die toon aangee. Sulke gemeenskappe kan saamwerk om dit wat oor ons kom op so 'n wyse te hanteer dat dit wat na ons toe kom gesien kan word as hoopvolle moontlikheid vir toekomsinvensies.

Trefwoorde: Taal, toekoms, betekenisvolle inligting, lewe, liefde, kollektiewe intelligensie, intelligente gemeenskappe, inventiewe denke


In the previous article it was emphasised how important it is to acknowledge and utilise language in its fullness. The configuration of meaningful information can only happen when it is embedded in this fullness of language. This process constitutes also the possibility of meaningful futures. Language can, however, be abused and denuded of the fullness of its meaning with catastrophic consequences for the creation of meaningful information and by implication for the invention of a meaningful future.
A cynical loss of meaning emerges when language becomes nothing more than the application of skills. The loss of language is equivalent to the loss of meaning which is equivalent to the loss of a sense of a future - the ultimate of this loss is manifested in an extreme nihilism. One consequence of this loss of meaning is the celebration of death instead of life. Another consequence of the reduction of language to nothing more than a mundane chit-chat is the collapse into barbarism. When language has been cut off from its past it loses its inventive powers and human beings become caught up in their presence without any hopeful vision onto the future. On the other hand, when language in its fullness is respected the conditions for inventiveness are met.
When thought takes language seriously, without utilising it to abuse, to control, or to take revenge it becomes inventive. It opens up possible futures. Inventive thinking is a-critical in nature; it does not want to exclude, or to be negative. It searches for wisdom, for the ability to establish links and connections between the local and the global, the immanent and the transcendent, the past, the present and the future. It adopts a meditative disposition that inspires reveries, imaginations and phantasms, especially with regard to the future. This thought is undeniably committed to a sense of wonder with the ability to see what nobody else can see. In times of underdeveloped, one-dimensional, dogmatic, repetitive and logocentric thought the appeal for noetic thought, which is the real inventive thinking, becomes a matter of urgency. This thinking is fully committed to the configuration of meaningful information and through this to the invention of meaningful futures.
The conditions for the configuration of meaningful information, apart from noetic thought, are the highest form of literacy and reading ability, a most comprehensive conception of understanding and interpretation, since hereby meaning is introduced into communities and society at large and is the best evidence of a lived, a living and a lively culture. In this regard, we encounter the ultimate in human achievement. It is doubtful whether the new image of the human person, the so-called "posthuman", as announced and propagated by some specialists in cybernetics, will become an easy and straightforward replacement for this conception of the human being. The thoughtful human being is firstly an embodied being of complex nature and it is highly questionable to what extent human awareness and intelligence, shaped by this bodily complexity, will be comparable to machine "intelligence". The question is whether disembodied intelligence can really be understood as intelligence in the human sense of this term. Will machine "intelligence" ever be able to configure meaningful information and invent possible meaningful futures from the multiplicity of forms, shapes, characteristics and qualities that constitute the nature of reality, or is this privilege reserved for the noetic mind of the human being and human communities alone?
Concern for a future emerges from the depths of a living, embodied humanity in its deepest noological, emotional and communal being. The invention of a future relates to life, especially human life and human life is in a very explicit way manifested in the human body. Unless the posthuman maintains a lively link with human bodiliness life will be absent and so is the possibility of a future. Machine "intelligence" will most probably be denied the privilege to design or invent a future for humans because of the absence of life. What should be contemplated and pursued further are the possibilities the kinship of the embodied posthuman with "intelligent" machines offers for inventing a future. We will be surprised by new possibilities of humanness that may open up.
Thoughtful orientation towards the future, is not meant for egoistic, narcissistic and solipsistic individuals, but requires the re-invention of new communities, intelligent communities carried and supported by collective intelligence. Collective intelligence can only be established and cultivated by people who care and have respect for one another, where love - love for oneself and for us - reigns. We live in times where love is destroyed, and this liquidation of love leads to mal-adaptation. Modern human beings are in step with consumerist culture, but fully out of step with this "culture of love for the self and for the 'us'". When these qualities of care, love and respect are combined with meaningful information, communities with a new dynamics emerge. Such communities will be able to deal with the inevitable, with whatever may happen to them, with what may come over them or overcome them, as well as with what comes to them. A meaningful future can now be hoped for.

Key concepts: Language, future, meaningful information, life, love, collective intelligence, intelligent communities, inventive thinking


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Prof C S de Beer is Emeritus Professor van die Departement Inligtingkunde, Universiteit van Suid-Afrika en is tans Buitengewone Professor in Inligtingkunde aan die Universiteit van Pretoria. Hy het gegradueer in Landbou en Wysbegeerte aan die Universiteite van Pretoria en Parys X. Nanterre, Frankryk. Hy het Inligtingkunde, Kommuni-kasiekunde en Wysbegeerte doseer, navorsing op al hierdie gebiede en verwante subgebiede onderneem, konsultasiewerk gedoen oor kennisbenutting en inligtingverspreiding. Onder sy publikasies tot op datum tel 6 boeke (as outeur), 5 boeke (as redakteur), 75 wetenskaplike artikels en verskeie navorsings-verslae. Hy doen tans ekstensief navorsing oor die Filosofie van Inligting in die wydste moontlike sin van die woord, met besondere klem op die individuele en sosiale implikasies daarvan en hy het 'n beperkte doseeropdrag in Inligtingkunde.

Prof C S de Beer is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Information Science, University of South Africa and is currently Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Information Science at the University of Pretoria. He graduated in Agriculture and Philosophy at the Universities of Pretoria and Paris X. Nanterre, France. He taught Information Science, Communications, and Philosophy, undertook research in all these disciplines and related sub-disciplines, and was involved in consultation work in the area of knowledge utilisation and information dissemination. To date he has published 6 books (as author), 5 books (as editor), 75 scientific articles, and a number of research reports. He is currently engaged in research of the Philosophy of Information in the widest possible sense of the word, with specific attention to its individual and social implications and he has a limited lecturing responsibility in Information Science.

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