Action Potential
Isis Valliergues Barnum
International Entrepreneur
In a rapidly-flowing set of associative thoughts, Isis Valliergues Barnum tackles the pressing issues leading to the diverse forms of anxiety in the contemporary world, illustrating their extreme complexity through the swift rhythms of the text itself.

The BIG Deal: Brave. Intelligent. Good.

In dialogue with the works of José Castillo

José Castillo, Untitled, engraving

“Life is a collective Triumph
Create a crown of spiky pines
To defend your spirit
From the destroyers of objective clarity.”
Alejandro Jodorowsky1

Call into existence our defense mechanisms by naming them in a bridge between the big subjects brought forth by HAS—where Big Data is vision, aggregate singular creativity is our hope. Out of sight, out of mind—no more. Time.

Cellular Humanity

Digitally meshed humanity becomes a cellular humanity, fulfilling the ultimate step-change revolution of cellular phones. A state-change for a gender fluid species population from the conqueror, masculine principle to a matricial feminine state, requiring the adoption of cooperative over competitive principles, and enabling coordinated action in time and space in order to face present challenges and optimize chances. Of survival.

A non-fiction:

United Nations NY, 23.09.19. Greta Thunberg2—great thunder strikes the edifice:
People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.

The ticking time bomb.
The proof is in.
A fundamental, mathematical fallacy against Reality.
A wrong turn.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

A misunderstanding then.
Paralyzing dread, clouded action –
“Human, all too human.”3
A starting point for processing through understanding.

With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than eight and a half years.
Because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

José Castillo, Untitled, engraving

A countdown.
Rogue leadership untethered from and unbothered with natural law, overstretching credence for advantage gains with time-wasting, distracting debates over perceptual Reality.
Functional, relevant Reality is crystal clear.
A thought on relevance from physicist David Bohm, considered a “spiritual son” by Albert Einstein:
In Through the Looking Glass, there is a conversation between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, containing the sentence:
‘This watch doesn’t run, even though I used the best butter.’ Such a sentence lists into attention the irrelevant notion that the grade of butter has bearing on the running of watches—a notion that evidently does not fit the context of the actual structure of watches.
Butter is to money what the stopped watch is to the Carbon Countdown.

“Like it is”:

Outlined in “Trajectories Of The Earth System In The Anthropocene,” a 2018 study by the National Academy Of Science, USA:
“The Anthropocene is a proposed new geological epoch (1) based on the observation that human impacts on essential planetary process have become so profound (2) that they have driven the Earth out of the Holocene epoch in which agriculture, sedentary communities, and eventually, socially and technologically complex human societies developed. […] Knowledge that human activity now rivals geological forces in influencing the trajectory of the Earth System has important implications for both Earth System science and societal decision-­making.”

Searingly echoed by artist Lynette Wallworth in her Davos Crystal Award acceptance speech in January 2020: “Those who led us here aligned themselves with corporations over community, with privilege and power over shared humanity, and with ledgers over values. There is an extinction going on: it is the death of a worn-out way that no longer serves. As powerful as their last rampant thrashing will appear, the dinosaur industries will die – they are dying now.”

While the race to stabilize earth gains in salience, the race to understand the brain yields synchronous lessons—the brain functions on Action Potential; upon reaching thresholds, related pathways will strengthen or weaken depending upon feedback in reward matching.

An insight from Neuroscience: “[A] goal is to articulate the key concepts of choosing, deciding, intending and acting. Dwelling on terminology may seem an unnecessary tangent, but science travels on its vocabulary—inconsistent and vague terms can only yield confusion. This is all the more important when the object of this scientific investigation is nothing less than human agency.”6

ART, Activation Response Time: A new measure in neuroscience in 2019—lighting the way: “The value of ART is in physiological units such as spikes per seconds.”7 Activation Response Time thresholds may inspire humanitarian coordination to counter challenges in the same way that societal organization gains from mirroring brain function, as seen by the momentum behind neural networks.

An aptly-stated perspective by renowned academic Alan Watts: “To the central brain the individual neuron signals either yes or no—that’s all. But, as we know from computers, which employ binary arithmetic in which the only figures are 0 and 1, these simple elements can be formed into the most complex and marvelous patterns. In this respect our nervous system and 0/1 computers are much like everything else, for the physical world is basically vibration.”8

And a hint to glean from Bob Dylan in the Desire album’s song “Isis”:
I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty,
There was no jewels, no nothin’, I felt I’d been had,
When I saw that my partner was just being friendly,
When I took up his offer I must-a been mad.

José Castillo, Untitled, engraving

I.O.I.O. – This Brave World will be Cooperative or Naught

Life is phenomenally astonishing. Our individual perceptions of Reality vary widely. The Planet is reeling onto a Hothouse Earth trajectory. Somewhere along the road of destiny, between wondering what we’re doing here and doing it anyway in myriad ways, humanity has collectively reached and broken through the imaginary and comfortable-looking glass between choice, action, and effect. Contemporary human existence is living in a present borrowed against a possibly void and cancelled future, with an 8-year countdown to the end of our collective carbon “credit” before affecting inconceivably hostile conditions for our species and all others here on vulnerable System Earth.

This is not news, which are ringing in the new decade to acute biblical flavour—seven continents under siege by locusts, plague, fires, floods, and a struggling cooling system sending winds swirling. Cascading worldwide epic events are completing a loop of karma unfolding rapidly here and now; natural law is serving a collective awakening. Louis XVII died in prison at age 10 during La Terreur, paying for the 66 French kings before him.
Pause. Breathe. Focus. Resilience.

The Truth, and Reality, are much more interesting than lies and fear. The latter restrict creativity and optimism in cognitive straightjackets. Dinosaur industries and systems are being naturally selected out of humanity’s emerging and imminent Reality Of Nature/Nature Of Reality paradigm.

Culturally, our power multiplies exponentially when we come to care for ourselves and our home in universal ways. Connectivity is catalyzing our creative relevance. The interdisciplinary fields of the humanities, benefiting from the sweetheart advantage of trust, borne out of what we universally understand—emotions and experience, and their transmission in countless formats, will timelessly be more agile than red tape and transistors. You may call it the Speed Of Light.

Understanding these relationships anchors us into our role as stewards, with the individual revealed, the collective reinforced, and our collective action potential optimally triggered into those actions required by today’s Climate Challenge—stabilizing our Earth System.

Activating the incredible and reliable wisdom of crowds requires a set of strict, mathematically healthy conditions. Cascade effects skew the results terribly—the 2008 economic bust attests to the misaligned intentions and results of ego against truth. The environmental equivalent also operates on the Earth Stage as violently colliding feedback loops and ricochets.

We’ve drilled from the Earth’s core her very singular alchemical past—oil, fossil fuels. Ages counted in planetary, universal Time ungraved. We’ve effectively excavated Mother Earth’s memory as tectonic shifts released into the atmosphere, rightfully shaking us to our core.

José Castillo, Untitled, engraving

The Electric Kool-Aid Asset Test

Clarity and visibility afford the perceiver the elements to apply his creativity in projecting, organizing, and building plans relative to goals and intentions. Hope in this context is akin to rational and relevant trust that goals can be met. Obscuration and deceit rob perceivers of sure footing and confidence, foster confusion, and invite uncertainty—a space easily filled by our imagination with anxiety and fear as we scramble for security.

Observation, objectivity, and method have built humanity’s progress and heritage through the ages. This equilibrium system-state of societal organization has today passed the tipping point, as connectivity and the climate crisis culminate in a clash of ultimate stakes and unravel into conflicts between the pressures of sustaining life on earth considering ­humanity’s population and the planet’s finite resources, revealing in plain sight the conflicts of irrational and outdated interests. Confusion robs individuals of their agency—this frontline engenders the war on truth.

Where knowledge is power, online access to information could provide open-source hope. In practice, mazes manipulate the truth and maintain states of anxiety for control of action against our own best interest and natural, rational agency. One study found that “falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information. The top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people.9

It could be that fear has a higher transmissive success than trust because we’ve come to experience it as a false proxy for competitive success within a biased frame that values money more than life. What started as a token of trust is proving to be dangerously limited, arbitrary, and vulnerable in that role, borne out of the impossible shape-shifting, fundamental, and fatal fallacy that Money doesn’t grow on trees. Trees are Life are Value—a friendly reminder, and another hotspot for conflict as power deviance drives massive deforestation, ecosystem devastation, and large-scale alienation of humans from nature.

José Castillo, Untitled, engraving

Unsustainable and gamed growth practices then break into an economic and housing crisis, resulting in increased job competition and bottlenecking broken human spirits into outsourcing their self-worth to negative returns.

The benefits of self-awareness are currently withheld from our present narrative, with few semantic, linguistic options to describe current events other than in terms normally reserved for dystopian fiction and mysticism on one hand, and technical words made to feel dulling by science hostiles on the other. Humanity as a whole understandably has difficulty fathoming the state of the present, and our singular roles within it. Robbing individuals of a meaningful role through repetitive distress creates further cognitive disparity. The control and nature of knowledge are the grail bastions to command for ­institutional, mean deviation.

In its many mesmerizing and powerful applications, the human mind has the capacity and necessity to functionally reconcile arrays of diverging and converging concepts at any given moment (t). Suspension of disbelief to enjoy a fiction, for example, is a proactive, voluntary, Yang application. A corresponding Yin is found where confusion and doubt create suspended mental voids such as cognitive dissonance that we seek to fill and resolve. Exploitative structures create false, ultimately distressing logic proxies that we precipitously adopt, feeling eased, comforted, almost thankful and proud, and right back on productive track. Lonesome worker ants exhibit ceaseless locomotion on their first day of isolation, walk twice as far as those living in groups, and die in six days instead of 6610— an order of magnitude. This slow simmer of societal anxiety increases both productivity and consumption of health solutions as overworked humans seek to regain their well-­being within a gamed system.

Humans are completely vulnerable to this. Its cure is knowledge. Its normal, healthy state is Agency.

Opportunistic interference and fear-fueled, unnatural, and unsustainable power deviance skew reward cycles into vicious ones. While our ego takes a hit from witnessing its fundamental vulnerability to basic circumstantial manipulation, our higher selves are invited to confidently take the driver’s seat.

José Castillo, Untitled, 2001, engraving

The Power of Placebo

Within the vast expanse of existence, who am I, and why am I here, essentially lead to what does Me do Now? Does it even count? Belief and confidence step in—if I believe that what I do matters, then I choose responsibly and fortify my identity. If the causal relationship is perceptively vague, then I vaguely choose. Either way, feedback will inform learning, honing the process as it repeats.
Well, the results are in—Big Data and the Climate Crisis have concurrently arrived to certify that everything we do matters. Case closed.

Instincts, intuition, emotions, education, environment, perception, knowledge, understanding, reward cycles, intention, results, resolve, circumstance, disposition, individuation, society. Resilience.

I could be anything. I think. I hope. I know. Be all you can be.

Through Time, aggregate choices compose a physical, psychical, environmental, and now digital me.

Home to this mind full of wonder, we step into the biological brain.

The neurophysiological approach to the big causal questions employs many measures and methods to determine reasonable, functional limits between biology, decision-making, choice and agency—zones to explore for greater clarity on the other ultimate event horizon—where my free will and consciousness emerge.

Aye, there’s the rub.11 Associative and dissociative mechanical observations can’t quite capture the flames that in fact drive this human shell—awareness, passion, imagination, belief, and the creativity to enable and act out meaning and purpose.

Further out, aggregate activity is the reliable mechanism that our brain has evolved for self-regulation: Neurons are triggered to transform their Action Potential into activity once a threshold is reached by the collective action of related individual neurons.

Aggregate human activity in equilibrium conditions is consistently proven to exhibit identical collective intelligence properties, at scale. Modern-thought legend Stewart Brand, author of The Whole Earth Catalog, finds that “aggregate success rate is astonishing.”12 He also notably contributed planetary awareness to mankind by campaigning for NASA to release the first-­ever image of the whole earth, and publishing it with the catalogue.

There is profuse proof of this wisdom of crowds13—for now, let’s consider the following convenience:

“With most things, the average is medi­ocrity. With decision-making, it’s often excellence. You could say it’s as if we’ve been programmed to be collectively smart.”
“Over [the] ten experiments, the group’s performance will almost certainly be the best possible.”
“The simplest way to get reliably good answers is just to ask the group each time.”

And the best part, for confidence:

“Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible.” Read: Each person is best equipped to choose for themselves (under healthy conditions)—it’s in our nature.

Our individual brains and collective behaviour naturally exhibit sensible mathematical unison and reasonable, excellent accuracy.

One of our greatest concerns regarding AI is that it will create renegade rifts between what we want and believe to be logical and useful, and what a pure and dense mathematical stew can yield, ­ultimately fearing artificial emergence, agency, and abuse. At present, we are visibly inoculated to the term Intelligence itself, constantly seeing it attached to Artificial like a Chihuahua. Intelligence treats of consciousness, awareness, adaptation, efficiency, success—”the skilled use of reason.”14 A meeting of head and heart for better common sense.

Hyperconnectivity meshes with mathematical dynamics to reveal the power of 1.
Singularity is the single most important key towards truth and efficiency: Each individual count contributes to collective accuracy and success.

Measured individual screens that we depend upon to experience life is a boon for the power deviant. Thankfully, at global scale, mathematical, bio-logical justice sides with users, provided we choose once and for all to side with each other.

I imagine that the Universal gaze is equally astonished at us.

Heaven, Hell, and Paradise are actually features of Life On Earth At Present. Going further, humanity is on track to realize the conquest of Mars from the comfort of our living rooms—the refusal to respect universal truths in favour of nourishing short-sighted greed, has set our trajectory towards a burned, barren, and potential Hothouse Earth, Grey Planet scenario. Conveniently, the truth is not optional and does not require opting in. The more we participate, the more virtuous it becomes. GDPR requirements should seek to do more than protect individuals—it should include planetary protection parameters that passively aggregate positive action as we surf.

Energy is not New Age Speak, it’s the fundamental law that sensibly links us to our physical world—Relativity, E=mc2—is the tangible gift that mathematics gives us to technically Relate. Let the nature of Nature be the proof of concept.

Real Life > Fiction. Science > Fiction. Truth wins.

José Castillo, Untitled, 1994, engraving
  1. Alejandro Jodorowsky, À l’ombre du Yi Jing (Le Relié, 2014), p. 88. Translated from French “La vie est un triomphe collectif Crée-toi une couronne d’épines pour défendre ton esprit des destructeurs de la lucidité objective.”
  2. Greta Thunberg, speech, U.N. Climate Action Summit, 23 September 2019.
  3. Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1908), Title. Accessed 21 January 2020.
  4. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980), p. 42.
  5. Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, et al., “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene“, PNAS Direct Submission, August 6, 2018. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  6. Jeffrey D. Schall, “Decision making”, Current Biology 15 (2005); R9.
  7. Jeffrey D. Schall, “Accumulators, Neurons, and Response Time,” Trends in Neuroscience 42, no. 12 (December 2019), p. 852.
  8. Alan Watts, The Book (USA: Pantheon Books, 1966), p. 26.
  9. S. Vosoughi, D. Roy, S. Aral, “The spread of true and false news online,” Science, 9 March 2018. 1146-1151. Doi 10.1126/science.aap9559.
  10. Emily Anthes, “What happens to a lonely ant? Marching one by one” The New Yorker Magazine, 3 March 2015.
  11. William Shakespeare, Hamlet. E-book, 127.
  12. Anna Weiner, “The complicated legacy of Stewart Brand’s ‘Whole Earth Catalog'” New Yorker Magazine, 16 November 2018.
  13. James Surowiecki, The Wisdom Of Crowds, Anchor: 2004, Kindle edition.
  14. Intelligence,” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, accessed 20 September 2020.

Isis Valliergues Barnum is an international independent entrepreneur with degrees in Cognitive Psychology and Studio Art from Vanderbilt University, having lived and worked in Paris, New York, Nashville, London, Milan, Spain, and Colombia, working to build sound sustainable solutions in retail.

José Castillo was born in 1955 and passed away in 2018. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he developed a body of work based on research into the origins and multicultural roots of his country. Castillo proposes a reinterpretation of this cultural richness and collective imagination.He was a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris and the School of Fine Arts of Santo Domingo.

Previous publication
Next publication
Between Anxiety and Hope

Isis Valliergues Barnum is an international independent entrepreneur with degrees in Cognitive Psychology and Studio Art from Vanderbilt University, having lived and worked in Paris, New York, Nashville, London, Milan, Spain, and Colombia, working to build sound sustainable solutions in retail.

José Castillo was born in 1955 and passed away in 2018. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he developed a body of work based on research into the origins and multicultural roots of his country. Castillo proposes a reinterpretation of this cultural richness and collective imagination.He was a graduate of the Beaux-Arts de Paris and the School of Fine Arts of Santo Domingo.

PDF version