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Self-awareness, key to intentionality, meaning and purpose, may be restricted to the natural world. In social theory, reflexivity refers to a circular relationship between cause and effect in human systems. The latest in complexity and cognitive science – themselves related disciplines – appears to confirm this assertion by social scientists. By the simple act of perception humans can alter the reality they attempt to observe, and in that sense reality and sentient man can be said to intertwine. Out of this inference an emergent phenomenon we call the future limps forward.

Apparently higher order cognitive processes required for imagination and self-awareness imply something called double-loop learning: the ability to simultaneously perceive and ponder perception, resulting in the ability to modify a goal in the light of experience. It’s as if, while engaging in higher cognitive processes, the human mind becomes an extension of the natural world, blurring the physical divide between the two – this inference is neither continuous nor deterministic, and may share parallels with the bizarre world of quantum mechanics. All this raises an interesting question, and namely whether our hopes or fears for artificial intelligence overtaking human abilities (i.e. the so called “technological singularity”) are well founded. Even neural (adaptive) artificial algorithms – at least with the current architectures – may be incompatible with a profound connection with the natural world apparently required for the ability to dream – after all, the human mind is a product of the natural world, and thus ecologically indistinguishable from the natural ecosystem.