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Institutional paraconsciousness and its pathologies

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Document pages: 23 pages

Abstract: This analysis extends a recent mathematical treatment of the Baars consciousness model to analogous, but far more complicated, phenomena of institutional cognition. Individual consciousness is limited to a single, tunable, giant component of interacting cognitive modules, instantiating a Global Workspace. Human institutions, by contrast, support several, sometimes many, such giant components simultaneously, although their behavior remains constrained to a topology generated by cultural context and by the path-dependence inherent to organizational history. Such highly parallel multitasking - institutional paraconsciousness - while clearly limiting inattentional blindness and the consequences of failures within individual workspaces, does not eliminate them, and introduces new characteristic dysfunctions involving the distortion of information sent between global workspaces. Consequently, organizations (or machines designed along these principles), while highly efficient at certain kinds of tasks, remain subject to canonical and idiosyncratic failure patterns similar to, but more complicated than, those afflicting individuals. Remediation is complicated by the manner in which pathogenic externalities can write images of themselves on both institutional function and therapeutic intervention, in the context of relentless market selection pressures. The approach is broadly consonant with recent work on collective efficacy, collective consciousness, and distributed cognition.

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