I have been thinking about my personal life and how my own autopoietic activities contribute to the quality of my relationships, and what is possible in my life. I constitute living social systems in my life in various realms of connectivity: family, friends, marriage, colleagues, etc. I enact those relationships through my autopoietic contributions through my drive to connect, my need to structurally couple with my surroundings, including my need to connect socially.
Neuroscience has shown us that our brains are constantly processing sensory motor data and interpreting that data in relation to our memory systems – our long term memory and our short term memory. It is our memory systems that inform our autopoietic contributions. We are able to imagine and predict a future outcome of our contributions based on our memories of previous experiences wherein similar circumstances, participants, or objects were involved.
My need to connect socially is as vital as my need to connect to the atmosphere or water or food on a physiological level. This is because my brain produces my consciousness at every given moment as a simultaneous production of sensory motor data, memory, and qualia (Edelman). I do not have a choice about whether I interact with my environment and take in sensory motor data, or not. It is not a function I can turn on or off. It is vital to my existence because, without it, I am unable to discern threat or benefit from my environment, and autopoietically move away, or toward my perception of the conditions I am in.
This is interesting, I hadn’t thought of it before, but, just as I do not choose to breathe or not, in fact, if I forced myself to stop breathing, the moment I actually lost consciousness from the effort, I would start breathing again. My interactive cognition of my environment is the same. The effort I need to make to stop incoming sensory motor data is so effortful, the moment I stop making the effort, I am once again processing incoming data. This tells me there is an essential life force at work in the property of structural coupling. Even beyond the physiological. It tells me there is a cognitive, and hence a social, aspect to structural coupling that is essential to sustain life.
There is a reason solitary confinement is such a profound punishment. The human brain, isolated from the normal flow of incoming sensory motor data, experiences a kind of torture of deprivation, a pain of absence. It turns in on itself to sustain itself, much as a body deprived of nutrients will, in essence, cannibalize itself to sustain life. There is an essential aspect of social life that sustains our health and well being.
It shouldn’t surprise us that someone like the Aurora shooter would be a loner. The kind of thinking, the autopoietic system of belief that enabled him to enact his gross act of violence could only be fostered and sustained outside normal social relationships. His thinking processes turned in on themselves and bolstered themselves to enact an atrocity.