Alexander. Our Daologue on consciousness and sentience reminds me of sensate theory, which is all about the evolution of humans. This framing is inspired by a science fiction series on Netflix called Sense8, where the dominant species of humans are classified as homo sapien sapiens, and an emergent subspecies has arisen called homo sapien sensorium. The idea is that homo sapien sapiens exist and are successful because they can fool each other and themselves and can manipulate and change stories and histories and can twist things to their advantage. All politics depends on this ability. But you can’t do that around homo sapien sensorium anymore because of their sentient awareness; their empathic capacities are so high that they can sense when others deceive or purposely warp and manipulate reality. And this scares the bejeebers out of homo sapiens sapiens, so they set out to exterminate homo sapiens sensorium – at least, that’s the plot of the Sense8 Series.

Shae. I find it fascinating to give a name and sense of evolution to being a broadly sentient empath; one who can feel and know the world more widely. That is exactly why I started engaging my students in deep complexity thinking: I found them frustrated with a reductive approach to engaged inquiry and learning. I think many young people are already complexity aware, already feeling a wider bandwidth of information. Education needs to include all of the dynamics and experiences that a very disciplinary and mechanistic approach tends to ignore. I found the students – all of them — to be far more present when we started acknowledging and engaging with sensory and cognitive awareness of deep complexity, because it includes everything. Nothing is ignored. And it acknowledges that there is always far more happening than most of us are aware of much of the time. Teaching deep complexity thinking and understanding as an embodied and immediate experience acknowledged all relational and power dynamics, which enabled the students to feel safer. 

I wonder if this is opening up a space of the possible for the students to be present within the range of their inherent sentience, and perhaps also open up the way to tune it to wider patterns. 


The Embodied Relationality of Sentience

Alexander. Yes, sentience is a quality, a sensitivity, and I am certain it can be developed or tuned generally. Which reminds me of a martial arts training activity I use in Kids Class. With eyes closed, they learn to sense me coming up silently behind them, and they reach round and grab my hand before I actually touch their shoulder.  They do this with eyes closed but with all of their other senses wide open.  With beginners I rustle my fingers slightly as I move my hand past their ears, but more advanced students can sense me within their field of awareness no matter how silent or stealthy I try to be! Yes, it is a kind of tuning of sentience using what I call the syntony sense.

Shae. I recall a university student in a workshop I was running once stating that the Complexity Patterning experience had created new neural pathways in his brain! I am acutely aware that Indigenous people can experience broad sentience in relationality with the multilevel complexity of their environment, which here in Australia they describe as the living beingness that is Country. I believe this capacity is inherent in all humans and includes the original indigenous tribes of now Western countries. It may have been suppressed in homo sapiens sapiens but it appears to be re-emerging among homo sapiens sensorium – or whatever we are becoming. Perhaps this is a re-evolution, a re-igniting and re-gaining of slumbering or suppressed capacities that are there with us all. 


More Sentience, More Life

Alexander. Humans filter out most of the information we actually experience all the time. We receive a huge amount of information per second, a truly overwhelming amount, but we filter it out so we can focus and move. The thing is, we end up filtering out maybe too much because we are too good at it. So, we can ask the question, what is the price we pay for the filtering? Is what we leave in helpful for us? Is it any good? Is what we leave out needed for us to human well in this day and age? Learning to be Keynote Listeners (and not just Keynote Speakers) on the stage of life is a sense-ability we can consciously encourage and engage with.

Shae. It is interesting to consider that when you expand young people’s sentience — their experienced edges — you also need to give them skills — metacognitive skill — to know what they are doing and to be able to stay in a grounded state. Because expanded sentience needs to be contextually integrated as well as cognitively understood. For your students, the martial arts is the grounded context for tuning and expanding sentience. For my students, patterns are a very simple tool on which to hang that process; to be able to expand sentient awareness and information perception, and then bring it back and then move onto another area of the complexity that is everything. Complexity Patterning provides a very simple cognitive tool and pathway, if you like. Something as simple and visual as ecological patterns is useful to engage fields of information and learn about how it moves and how you can engage with it. It is designed to be adaptable for very young children in the first years of school, which is something I really want to explore. 

Netflix Series Sense8 – [accessed 27 December 2023]