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« A New Human Society - Part 4 | Main | Some thoughts on future postings »

October 20, 2016

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Davy

You hit the nail with the trauma theme with what is needed to initiate existential changes. You also hit the nail with the survivor theme. When I say hit the nail I mean this in the respect you are on to something. It appears trauma is ahead and we can only hope there will be survivors and this points to vastly different existential circumstances of the individual, governance, and economy.

Will we evolve but what is evolution. How much of evolution is devolution. Life is a frequency so we should be cautious of what we hope for. I say this because why do will always feel primitives are not evolved. It is clear in my study and understandings primitives were much more adapted to the “Ecos”. The higher level primitives attained a spoken culture far in advance of ours in the sense of a living organic culture in connectivity to nature. I point to Native American tribes of the late 18th century who had attained a level of growth from the introduction of the horse but still maintained a firm connection to nature. They had limited written culture. The governance was tribal. Population numbers were checked by the “Ecos”.

My point here is what should be considered truly human. Is it hubris to consider complex human development both physical and mental higher? I think we see this way because it is comfortable. Yet, you take these primitives that first experienced modernism and they in many cases rejected it. The ones that saw through the comfortable to the reality. The reality was separation and serfdom. It was a life of exploitation and destruction.

I agree with the “age of system awakening”. This is something we need for the here and now. This will become our monasteries for the coming time of trauma and the resulting survivors. Yet, this will suffer entropic decay that comes with all life. Mutations and natural acquiescence will determine the speed of this inevitable decay and the extent of its incorporated basis. Where will society land once trauma rebalances society with consumption and population? I believe system awakening is our way forward but it is as if we were taking a complex space ship to a planet that once there we would be on our own. What would be left of our physical complexity would be a skeleton of a space ship much like the Easter Island Ahus. Our organic development would go from there. The “Ecos” will mold this new human and digest and eventually eliminate much of the past.

It is clear over many thousands of years this previous human molding has not been what we have seen with a very short modern development. Good or bad our modern world is not natural in the sense of what is traditional and normal per most of our history. We see many higher level behaviors from primitives but they were within “Ecos” acquiescence. In this regards we can look at system awakening as a cultural extending prep school for existential collapse. Our real journey may be to go primitive but this may or may not be short term. How much systems awakening we take with us is unknown. What is worth taking eventually? I would argue strongly that now it is vital but later it may just be a luxury.

We are likely heading to small bands of wondering hunter gathers in a hostile world much like humans experienced over thousands of years back before stable climate. Why will we need higher level thinking in this world? Yet, in the process of getting from here to there it does matter and it is vital. We need meaning and answers now. Who cares about this uncertain future? That is a luxury of a comfort we now have but soon will lose. System awakening is a tool ow the here and now.

We are living here and now in a great transition of a human age and natural epoch. We are not living in a postmodern world of primitives or the alternative of some higher enlightened transformed human species. I have no idea what trajectory humans are on but I do know we are on a trajectory. The status quo is in a collapse process. Now we have needs and wants. We need meaning and direction. Of all the ideologies I have studied system thinking is the best for this period of destructive change.

You are a powerful thinker George and one we need profoundly. We need to maintain this course and preach to the choir if for no other reason than it is closer to the truth. It is not only your type of thinking we need. We need 1000 other shades of the truth. This is not all about thinking it is also about doing. We should not expect humans to change much because the system is not capable so humans won’t be capable. We can leave the survivors something to dwell upon before eventually there may be few written words. If there still is a culture and it has evolved with spiritual and sapience then this will be the foundation. That is not for us to know but the here and now it is clear system awakening is the way forward.

Doumafis

This article is on point. Evidently, the operative word is "Fitness."

Craig Moodie

George,

Excellent synopsis,as usual. Just one question. What happens to non- performers in a truly collective society?

Bjornasson

Hi Prof. Mobus,

I have read your longform pieces extensively and this is the first time I have commented; prior to this I was merely consuming information and did not have much to contribute. I appreciate your insights immensely, especially your willingness to elucidate in such scientific detail a phenomenon that is so diametrically opposed to mainstream thought - something that the vast majority of people don't want to believe is happening.

As someone from India, I can attest to a vast, rich tradition of natural coexistence and sapient thought in Indian literature and philosophy. It was the duty of those who considered themselves Hindus to tame their desires in the relentless pursuit of knowledge. There were of course, moral and divine sanctions for not doing so, but the idea was to pursue such a life for its own end and not for some divine or material recompense. Such ideas are not, of course, the domain of Hinduism but find expression in all major ancient religions. In India, this tradition found its greatest modern proponent in Gandhi, who would be appalled at the crude imitation of the West that India has become today. There are some parts where this tradition lives on but it is far from the dominant worldview.

We have already figured out a way to exist in harmony with the Ecos and have explicated it through millennia old texts that are cherished to this day. Even in modern times, we have had thinkers as varied as Tolstoy, Thoreau and Gandhi who have championed such a way of life. We don't need to evolve, or start from first principles; the work has already been done! And yet, possessing all this wisdom, we continue our march towards the abyss. This is what baffles me ... how can we revive these values and convince people of their foresight and usefulness in today's world, where self-interested capitalism is seen as an eternal way of life?

Don Stewart

Those who are interested may wish to consult Dan Siegel's new book Mind: A Journey Into the Heart of Being Human. I particularly recommend the chapter Where is Mind? Siegel suggests:
*energy and information flow as the source of mind
*integration (of parts) is how self-organization moves the system in an optimal way
*this linkage of differentiated parts is proposed as a core mechanism of health
*This is how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, the outcome of integration.

Siegel then suggests that the mind 'has four facets...information processing, subjective experience, consciousness, and self-organization.

It turns out, on close examination, that at least some of these facets cannot be contained in a human brain or even in a human body. We are necessarily part of at least a human society and more broadly the entire Ecos.

Two thoughts occurred to me as I read this chapter:
*Groups are always smarter than any individual
*Rather than focusing on trying to change your own mind, focus on getting into a group which will change your mind in a positive direction through whole body and environmental and group experiences.

This does not really address the question of making all humans wiser. But it may hold some good advice for individuals and small groups.

Don Stewart

larry latourette

Hey George: I have been reading your blog for most of the year, greatly appreciate your insights, and agree with many of your conclusions. I have a slightly different, less optimistic take on humanity and its future than you do and in particular suggest you are incorrect presuming, “We have evolved expanded world views before, presumably with the same brains that we had at the end of the Pleistocene.” The introduction of sedentary agriculture apparently changed our brains, and not in a good way. As summarized in If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?:

“In essence, we domesticated ourselves, according to Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard University and a leading proponent of this view.” Some 30 animals have been domesticated, he notes, and in the process every one of them has lost brain volume—typically a 10 to 15 percent reduction compared with their wild progenitors. Domesticated animals also have more gracile builds, smaller teeth, flatter faces, a more striking range of coloration and hair types—and, in many breeds, floppy ears and curly tails. Except for those last two traits, the domesticated breeds sound a lot like us….

“Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. ‘I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eye blink,’ [Anthropology Professor John Hawks] says. ‘This happened in China, Europe, and Africa— everywhere we look.’

“When you select against aggression, you get some surprising traits that come along with it,” Wrangham says. “My suspicion is that the easiest way for natural selection to reduce aggressiveness is to favor those individuals whose brains develop relatively slowly in relation to their bodies.” When fully grown, such an animal does not display as much aggression because it has a more juvenile brain, which tends to be less aggressive than that of an adult…. The result, he believes, is an adult possessing a suite of juvenile characteristics, including a very different [more docile] temperament.” Discover (http://discovermagazine.com/2010/sep/25-modern-humans-smart-why-brain-shrinking)
See also Human Domestication Reconsidered (http://www.sv.uio.no/sai/english/research/projects/anthropos-and-the-material/Intranet/domestication-practices/reading-group/texts/leach-human-domestication-reconsidered.pdf).

As I argue in more depth In We Are Self-Domesticated Animals (https://www.dropbox.com/s/4ytgrmcppc4c8nj/We Are Self-Domesticated Animals.pdf?dl=0), our hunter-gather ancestors lived in their natural environment in an egalitarian fashion that resembled an animal herd. Through sedentary agriculture, food surpluses, and the increase in population density, small number of elites emerged that forced the large majority of the population to work the farms and our new stratified social structure began to resemble an insect hive with distinct castes more than a herd of equals. At each stage of development, the powerful and the intelligent imposed the ideologies that justified the status quo and thus kept them in their high caste status. This hive structure in effect domesticated humans to be among the first farm animals and treated them accordingly.

Like bees, each knew what their small role was but no one, not even the elite, understood how the parts really fit together (which is why your study of systems is so valuable). But while individual members diminished due to domestication, the overall knowledge and technologies of the human collective grew with the contribution of each scientist, explorer, and artist, especially with the advent of the printing press.

Thus, agriculture caused a rarely acknowledged trade-off: the hive as a whole has become much larger, more technologically adept, and culturally skilled through food surpluses, specialization, and comparative advantage that agriculture allowed, but during most of its history the vast majority of its individual members have been made substantially worse off. As a result, we shrank in both stature and brain mass; psychologically, we became more docile, timid, and dependent on others (in my opinion, the real reason for the drop in violence noted by Pinker); and while we became more adept at copying the solutions of others, our ability to solve new problems, to persevere in challenging circumstances, or to think or do anything original was reduced. In addition to losing our physical and intellectual freedom, we have sacrificed our ability to grow up from perpetual adolescence and have been kept ignorant about our true situation.

Moreover, we’ve been told our entire lives by the elites dependent on the system that the present has always been better than the past, our technology and capitalism have given us a Golden Age and can solve all problems, and that we are all rational, intelligent equals with free will that just need to accumulate things, work hard, and stay safe to be happy.

As a result of both our domesticated heritage and immersive environment, most of us have completely accepted modernity’s imprinting/dogma. Thus, while a few less domesticated/atavistic individuals might overcome their programming and become sapient to use your term, most of us have neither the necessary hardware, software, nor desire to do so. In some respects, then, we have reduced our selves from free-range killer apes to cubicle monkeys with delusions of adequacy that have unknowingly locked ourselves in an unseen, materialistic hive-like factory farm and most understandably just want to stay safe in our cages. Thus, we have become Nietzsche's Last Men and I don't think a wave of wisdom sweeping the masses is in the cards.

Unfortunately, as you have well noted, the hive is facing serious and growing existential challenges that it is ill equipped to handle–the world economy is faltering due to a host of structural problems; energy is going to become more expensive; population and environmental degradation are increasing; global warming is going to impose ever greater, possibly catastrophic costs; and the abilities and motivations for even a small group to cause severe shocks to our strained and interconnected system through, among other means, conventional and nuclear weapons, biological pathogens, and cyber attacks are growing daily. Some Coming Challenges (https://www.dropbox.com/s/sshdopm0i3yts72/Some of the Coming Challenges.docx?dl=0)

These threats are largely new and systemic and thus outside the purview of the hive’s experience and, more importantly, without a powerful constituency within the hive that has a vested interest in addressing them. Further, because the hive has programmed us (and therefore itself) to believe in inevitable progress and the ability of science and capitalism to solve all problems, we blithely think everything is going to be fine because it has generally been fine in the past. Thus, the few constituencies within the hive that are motivated to act have limited power and credibility among the populace (e.g., climate change scientists) while powerful constituencies that are strongly motivated to retain their current benefits under the status quo and largely control the government and media (e.g., private companies, pensioners) looking through the lens of their own self interest don’t see a direct threat and will impede any meaningful change.

Put another way, the hive is largely blind or indifferent to these problems while we as diminished cubicle monkeys delude ourselves that it knows what it is doing, will continue to ignore the pleas of the wise outside the power structure, and nothing much will be done until it is too late. This is almost certainly not going to end well and while I too hope I’m wrong I give us ten, maybe twenty years before the wheels start falling off the societal bus.

Sorry to go on at such length. I’d be very interested in hearing more about your philosophical pursuits (twenty years ago I stumbled upon the abyss of my own ignorance and have been trying to figure out what is going on in the world ever since--would love to swap theories if you are game). Thanks again and take care—we live in increasingly interesting times. Larry

Davy

George I miss your intellectually stimulating writings. Is there anything in the works for future reading? There is some serious changes in the works in our crazy world so now might be a good time for more of your sapience!

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