11 September 2016

Softwarization and Archetypes

Carl Gustav Jung was a well-known Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. His work has been influential not only in psychiatry but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies.

Jung created some of the best known psychological concepts, including Jungian archetypes, the collective unconscious, the psychological complex, and extroversion and introversion. Jungian archetypes are just like “empty forms” which are filled each of us: examples of archetypes are: the mother, the father, the child, the shadow, the wise old man, the anima and the animus. He never limited the number of archetypes, arguing that at different stages of our life other archetypes would emerge and with them interpretations which would be appropriate for these stages.

We know that the acceleration of ICT is likely to impact profoundly our socio-economic system. Not only Telecommunications but also other several industries will be disrupted. Ultra-broadband connectivity, with its low latencies, will embed A.I. pervasively into the reality so that machines and robots will work for us (or better instead of us).  

However the impact of ICT progresses on the collective unconscious and our archetypes has not been fully investigated yet. And this is where we’ll see the most impactful changes of our society, in my opinion. Just remind Jung's description of archetypes: "an image of instinct…a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives...".

Mark Stefik, a principal scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, wrote an interesting book in 1996, titled Internet Dreams: Archetypes, Myths and Metaphors, (The MIT Press). At the time of the writing of this book the most familiar metaphor for the Internet was the "information superhighway", but he preferred four metaphors, each of which points to an archetype as its source: the Digital Library pointing to "Keeper of Knowledge;" Electronic Mail to "Communicator"; Electronic Marketplace, to "Trader;" and finally, Digital Worlds to "Adventurer." According to Stefik "these archetypes, with their deep and ancient roots in many cultures, represent what we see in others, but they are also parts of ourselves. This shared experience of cultural archetypes is part of what makes us what we are”.

There is another interesting book, from Daniel Taylor, The Healing Power of Stories dealing with the importance of good stories to build a community. Every community has its stories that bind all members together: as in the past the storyteller was an important member of each village. And stories are also full references to archetypes. We all can agree that the Web is playing a very important on that.

Remember also the concept of Meme, introduced by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene”: meme is the equivalent of the gene in the evolution of human culture. Memes can hides combination of archetypes. A successful meme can rapidly spread on the Web.

Current and future ICT will allow creating, programming and spreading on the Web new archetypes for millions of people, thus morphing the collective unconscious of the society. This can influence the culture, the behaviours, the dreams and the needs of people, profoundly. The archaic power of archetypes can transform the society and the industry. 

This is a major impact of Softwarization of Telecommunications, maybe (as ahead) even more than the ones on data privacy, security and the fears that robots will replace humans in several jobs !