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« A New Human Society - Part 3 | Main | A New Human Society - Part 5 »

October 13, 2016


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Your summary of mind-consciousness-wisdom is enlightening.

Concerning what you write in the following: "I do not currently believe that the average human being has the brain machinery to transcend this level of consciousness. I believe this based on what I see as the evidence to date."

From the perspective of the principle of life this is unfortunate indeed but this is nevertheless a reality and it portends that the actions of the individuals are not going to change the direction Modernity's societal complexity is leading us. Modernity generates chaos all around the ensemble earth (set theory) and is engaging the natural and societal systems, within the ensemble, towards collapse. But this is not the first time that chaos interrupted life's developmental path. Each time this happened the context of life on earth, over time, has been cleansed and order (harmony) was reinstated from where life could restart a new cycle of growth or of expanding complexity.

I started reading your blog many years ago and your systemic approach has been precious food for my thinking. Thanks a lot for that.

My background is in:
- economics and political science but over the last 30 years I have been engaged in a comparative study of the emergence of civilizations (more particularly Europe and its geographic expansions versus China).
- fine-art or painting

I have been conducting thinking and painting in parallel. Through thinking I address the conscious part of the activity of my mind while through painting I address my subconscious. Both are complementary and going from one to the other helps to jump over the limitations of the conscious working of the mind.

The notion of collapse is quite recent in the West but according to the oldest texts it has been present in the Chinese consciousness since at least 3000 years. That's why the Chinese have this concept of "prudence" in managing societal affairs that they inherited from tribal animism.

Prudence in societal management was meant to avoid losing control and ending up in chaos. But the Chinese knew nevertheless that it was impossible to stop the cycle from order to chaos and back to order and so on. That's why they focused primarily on how to ensure the survival of their nation through chaos... To do that they refined their worldview (view of the world or of reality) and the strength of their worldview resides in their pragmatism (applicability in daily life). This pragmatism is what sinified the invaders of China... they came indeed to recognize the superior pragmatism of the Chinese worldview without which they felt they could not manage successfully their expanded empire...

As a result the geographic expansion of China was not realized through conquest but primarily through defeat at the hands of their neighbors (defeat by the Mongol resulted in the integration not only of Mongolia but also of Tibet and of Xinjiang to the Chinese territory {60% of present-day China} and later defeat by the Manchu who integrated the North-East as far north as Vladivostok).

What I try to convey here and also in my last comment is the necessity of "a species' strategic pragmatism". What I mean by this is that sapience is not limited to the physical reality of the individuals' brain. Sapience is also a critical dimension of the societal organization of the species.

A living species is not given only by its individuals. The individuals are one of the polarities of a species the other polarity being societies (grouping of individuals). From this I derive the following principle: a living species = the interactions between societies and individuals (yin-yang instead of individuals against society as in Western Modernity).

In such a worldview the survival by humanity of the collapse brought about by Modernity has to rely not only on the wisdom of individuals it has also to rely on the mastery of the knowledge about the working of societies and at the juncture of collapse, I feel that, the societal aspect is bound to play the predominant role.

Don Stewart

Something you may or may not wish to pursue, relative to sapience and wisdom. I am reading The Mind Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer, MD: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health. To give an idea of what the book is about, I will simply list some section headings:
*Can Your Gut Microbes Change Your Brain?
*Are Gut Microbiota Our Own Xanax Factory?
*The Role of the Microbiota in Depression
*The Role of Stress
*Positive Emotions
*Other Consequences of Emotions on Gut Microbes
*Can Your Gut Microbes Alter Your Social Behavior?
*Toward a New Theory of Emotions

Relative to that last point:
‘The gut-brain axis is not only involved in regulatory loops within the body (immune and endocrine systems) but it is also closely linked to the world around us. The brain responds to various psychosocial influences, whereas the gut and its microbiome respond to what we eat, which medications we take, and to any infectious organisms. The entire system functions like a supercomputer which integrates vast amounts of information from within our bodies and from the outside world we live in, to generate optimal digestive and brain functions.’

Chapter 7 is titled ‘Understanding Intuitive Decision Making’. ‘Many of the decisions we make in life are grounded in logic, the product of thoughtful and careful consideration. On the other hand, there are those choices you make without any real analysis or considered reason. Such choices are often made without conscious awareness.’ Then he notes Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, published in 2002.

What follows in Chapter 7 is the notion that, just as we can control our mind using the techniques of Mindfulness, we can also hone our ability to make intuitive decisions.

Back to me. Why do I think this is relevant. If we take as our task actually changing adult behavior, either for ourself, those close to us, or the society at large, then we have to understand how people are actually making the day to day decisions which we believe are leading to unhealthy outcomes. We have to accept that ‘the full development of emotions and gut reactions requires an extensive lifelong learning process by which we train and fine-tune our brain-gut microbiome system.’ And that ‘when we experience an emotion as an adult, the brain does not need to feel sensations that describe what’s actually happening in the body. Instead, it simply responds to a cue by accessing its library of emotional videos to generate a feeling. The videos in this library may have been recorded during infancy or adolescence as true gut reactions, for example the gut contractions associated with a feeling of anger. They’re reported back to the brain as gut sensations and stored in the library as gut feelings such as nausea, well-being, satiation, hunger, and more. These gut feelings can be accessed for a lifetime, instantaneously.’

My point is not that it is impossible to change an adult with such a robust array of instantaneous feelings. The example I quoted earlier of the two medical doctors reacting to the lunch that had been prepared for them with disgust is evidence that learning can take place. I think the new science does make it clear that change does not come easily. The system evolved to give us off-the-shelf reactions which would help us survive in a dangerous world. It makes sense that it takes some concerted and smartly chosen effort to override some previous programming and substitute new programming. I would also note that it is not about convincing people that ‘climate change is dangerous’. What is involved is substituting ‘gardening and preserving food is such satisfying work’ for ‘driving to the grocery store and buying food for my family gives me pleasure’.

Don Stewart

Jordan Olson


It seems like you could say: ideology = confabulation + confirmation bias + social reinforcement (or something like that). The capacity to change our minds and challenge our ideologies could come from an educational environment that encourages free exploration of ideas and a safe space and culture that accepts us for being wrong (to keep us from doubling down when challenged). Even with all that nurture, nature could still be the limiting factor, i.e. given that environment, how many people would really want to step into it? As abhorrent as some people might find it, I can’t help but think of Plato’s ‘philosopher kings’ from The Republic, how many people actually enjoy digging for the truth? Rare is the fish that is aware of water.

In regards to Steven Pinker’s observation of reduced violence, how much of that is a result of the ever expanding carrying capacity we’ve been enjoying for the last 300 years (even if it’s been expanding by stealing from the future)? How much of that congeniality will remain when the carrying capacity starts to fall off and population pressure increases? It’s much easier to be social when your belly is full. I’m skeptical that this is some form of permanent cultural evolution.


If you can get past the pro-business bent (and some naive lack of attribution to prior scholarship), Peter Senge explores what he calls organizational learning in his book The Fifth Discipline. It may be a start to your idea of sapient societal organizations.


George, I feel the global world is not a good candidate for your “new age” sapience. I call this “new age” because it is of another age and we are at the turning of an age both with our civilization and an earth epoch. In crisis there will be change. It is likely going to take a die off of both men and his things for transcendence to be possible. It is going to take a house cleaning to allow us to progress and the reality of this progress is a paradox of retreat of sapience. We must return to smaller less evolved groups. We need more spoken wisdom passed on through human structures of family and tribe. Asking humans to be more than they are meant to be is setting them up for failure. Some transcendence is possible under the current modern arrangement but at some point it will vanish with the unnaturalness of modernism. This transcendent experience should be accompanied by transcendence of the spirt. It is only wisdom accompanied by spirit that will survive. The spiritual will give meaning to what should be saved. Some can rise to a higher level on all planes of consciousness most can’t with or without education.

Our place belongs back from where we came. We will likely be forced back there by natural forces. Our own motivations will be back to simpler and less complex relationships. The fragility of our current sapience will quickly decay away on some levels yet on other levels it can expand. It will have to expand spiritually in connection with our “Ecos”. We will have to lose ourselves to find ourselves. We will lose modernism but find our humanism. That is of course a long view without a timeframe because in this day and age tomorrow could be the day. We are that close to change.

In the immediate I am all for what you have described in your part 4. Not all of it can be attained but the attempt must be made. The science of systems and the wisdom of the wise is vital now as we enter a bifurcation of globalism. The immediate step down will need answers. We must have some answers to fit the consequences of an age of decadence and destructive change. Modernism has destroyed our previous structures that supported and nurtured us. These must be resurrected but they can only be resurrected in new and modern ways or they will be rejected. These can be in systematic outlines of the wise way forward.

Those of us who can see what is ahead can provide the framework and the enthusiasm for a new way forward for those who are not capable of this vision. It takes a special kind of mind to see these things. Not all minds can see these things nor should they. It takes a community to raise a family. Some of us must be the village elders and it is only after the current global village elders have been discredited can this take place. They will be discredited when modernism collapse. Their false messages will be silenced. The electronic medium must be dispensed from our collective sapience. We must return to our natural cognitive selves without the background noise that prevents real sapience. This wisdom should be spoken and tribal and passed on from old to the young. It is only this way can we find meaning at all ages and all gender. Everyone must have a place and meaning. We cannot have elites. Elitism is a marker for too big. We have lost much of this ancient wisdom because all of this has been distorted beyond recognition by modernism. Sure it is in books and on the digital net but it is not living. This distortion is from a world that has expanded too far to fast from our core identity. Globalism is not natural for us. Modernism is not natural. What is not natural will not survive long. Nature enjoys nature and only nature can overcome was a saying from ancient Egypt.

Unfortunately, this process I described above by necessity must include a die off. It must include the end of modernism. We will see much of our cities in ruin and the institutions we hold dear. It is this kind of death that brings for the life you are alluding to. Your ideas of growing out of our existential predicament are noble and lofty but likely it is too late and likely was never meant to be per “Ecos”. I would not discourage you from this effort but only say expect failure because it is only through failure that regrowth can be found.

George Mobus


You seem to be using the word "sapience" more broadly than I am. In my writing I try to distinguish sapience as a brain function that can give rise to wisdom (knowledge). There may very well be a societal equivalent mechanism, e.g. what government should be (but isn't). I think it important to make scale distinctions and stick to them for clarity.

@Don S.

Symbiosis and commensulism are two examples of the nature of fuzzy boundary conditions in systems, one of the chief reasons that identifying exactly what the system of interest is is so difficult.

Suggest you look at the works of Antonio Damasio re: influences of affect on decisions making (one kind of intuitional influence).


Re: Pinker's observation. While it is true that the carrying capacity has been artificially extended, the reality is that the population has actually expanded at a much greater rate relatively speaking. This has become especially clear since the 1970s when the peak in net free energy per capita happened. The US history since those days has been mostly about trying to take over the major sources of oil in the Middle East! What we have failed to take into account is the cost of military power to make that happen exceeds the profit from the effort!

Additionally, and coincidentally, the 1970s marked the peak of growth of multiple factor productivity, especially the contribution from technologies. In spite of the small blip in productivity increases due to computing and communications in the early 1990s, the general trend has been negative. The slow down in productivity growth (and hence economic growth in general) started back in the 1960s, peaked in the mid to late 1970s and has been in decline (mostly) ever since (see: Gordon, Robert J., The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War).

Pinker's general conclusion is that the increase in passivity is likely due to the increasing role of government(s) in daily life. But there has to be some mental factor that makes it possible.


In the final installment I start off by suggesting that the recommendations I will make are an exercise in fantasy if not futility. The point of everything I have written is to make clear how unlikely any form of current society is to survive into the future!

I have made it clear over the years that I see no chance of us getting through this in one piece. An evolutionary bottleneck is, in my opinion, a given. The question is are there representatives of higher sapience in the current population that might be able to survive and give rise to a new kind of human being at some time long into the future past the bottleneck?

I have met a few individuals over the years that I suspect would be good candidates. But they are rare indeed. Especially given that they need to be young enough to have reproductive potential in front of them. Given that wisdom doesn't start showing itself in any meaningful, observable way until one is approaching elderhood, it will be a matter of chance and selection - evolution - to decide.


Don Stewart

Regarding Damasio and Mayer's book. Damasio contributes an appreciative blurb for the book. The book does not contradict Damasio (so far as I can tell), but it adds a lot facts which were not known when Damasio wrote his books.
Don Stewart

Don Stewart

One other thought. Mayer talks about Yin and Yang and the gut/brain relationship. We might conclude that the gut and the gut bacteria and the brain are all a symbiotic relationship with similarities to the yin/yang symbol.

However, Mayer also says in an aside that some people think that the gut bacteria manipulate the host humans to eat the food that is best for the bacteria...not necessarily for the human proper. If that is so, then there are also aspects of the Two Clocks problem...even leaving out the issue of pathogens. So it's all complicated.

Don Stewart

Don Stewart

Forgive length. Some more from Emeran Mayer which relates to the possibility of new levels of consciousness.

Damasio blurb: After a long period of neglect the enteric nervous system has been recognized as the second brain. Dr. Emeran Mayer, a true expert on this topic, has now written the best lay-public guide yet to this spectacular part of ourselves. Recommended reading.

Page 18: Do the microbes manipulate our brains to make us seek out foods that are best for them?

Pages 18 and 19: Everything that we’ve learned about the gut microbiota challenges traditional scientific beliefs, which is one reason why it has become the topic of so much interest and controversy, both in the world of science and the media…..We humans are truly supra organisms, composed of closely interconnected human and microbial components, which are inseparable and dependent on each other for survival. And most concerning is the fact that the microbial components are vastly greater than our human contribution to this supra-organism. As the microbial component is so closely connected through a shared biological communication system to all the other micro biomes in the soil, the air, the oceans, and the microbes living in symbiosis with almost all other living creatures, we are closely and inextricably tied into the earth’s web of life. The new concept of the human microbial supra organism clearly has profound implications for our understanding of our role on earth and for many aspects of health and disease.

Back to me. And are the gut microbes only symbionts? Or, like the mitochondria, do they also hear a different drummer? And can humans, with their big brains, learn to manage the flood of messages from the microbes, and, in turn, send them appropriate messages? And can we do that while eating food and living in a society we did not evolve to eat or live in?

Don Stewart

Don Stewart

Testing your patience a little more. Suppose we say that being ‘of sound mind and body’ is a prerequisite to achieving higher wisdom. Then the sine qua non for the higher wisdom is a sound gut and an ecologically sound population of gut microbes. Yet, today, we do not have those prerequisites. We have lost, probably irretrievably, the diversity of microbes that were the birthright of our hunter- gatherer forebears. It is the diversity and abundance of the microbes that guarantee resilience in the face of change. If our civilization reverts to a world more similar to that of the hunters and gatherers, we will be ill-equipped in terms of diversity and abundance of microbes.

‘Is the proper balance of microbes a prerequisite for mental health? And when these connections between the mind and gut are altered can they raise a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases of the brain?’ And some of the evidence:
*A dramatic, continuous increase in the reported prevalence of autism spectrum disorder…twice as prevalent in the last decade alone.
*Neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise as well….the nerve degeneration typical of Parkinson’s long before classical symptoms of the disease appear, and that changes in patients’ gut microbial composition accompany the disease…. The number of people with Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
*Gut microbes also linked to depression, which is the second leading cause of disability in the United States….95 percent of the body’s serotonin is actually contained in specialized cells in the gut, and these serotonin-containing cells are influenced by what we eat, by chemicals released from certain species of gut microbes, and by signals that the brain sends to them, informing them of our emotional state….these cells are tightly connected to sensory nerves that signal directly back into the brain’s emotion regulating centers, making them an important hub within the gut-brain axis.
*You are what you eat

Back to me. I suggest:
*The loss of our hunter-gatherer diversity of gut microbes may bode ill for survival when things get tough
*If we aspire to higher wisdom, the first order of business is probably to get right with our gut, which requires a retro-revolution in food and ways of being in the world.
*Gut microbe populations do not change much after childhood, but the expression of genes can change rapidly. But eating the lunch typical of medical conferences will not change gene expression in favorable ways. If we desire a social movement toward higher wisdom, then achieving a social change in food and the broader environment is a prerequisite. (Who knew???)

Don Stewart


Fantasy becomes reality and reality becomes fantasy is a way of saying it is the freedom of sapience as a living music that the imaginary becomes real. We perceive into existence by the reaching of flesh and blood combined with human spirit the unknown. We are on the cusp of a new human enlightenment that is little more than an enlightenment lost. Systems thinking is the leading edge of the drive into the unknown of possibility. I would clarify this as a vehicle that is needed to navigate the space time of modernism. It is likely not the vehicle that will be used post modernism. That vehicle will likely be spoken and biological. The written word and even language will undergo entropic decay what is left will be etched into our synapse not paper although monasteries will hopefully exist for reflection and guidance.

We should create monasteries of wisdom now while we can. The vows will be the “Truth”. This wisdom will be the foundation of the new human that is very near. This new human cannot and will not carry on modernism because modernism will not evolve much further with the coming devolution. We can present the outlines that are the canvas of our connections to our life source. We don’t know what this new humanity will be but we can be the beginnings. This new humanity is yet fantasy but we can begin to make that fantasy a reality. We can be the foundation on which this new man can organically evolve. Of course this will or will not happen depending on geologic and biological acquiescence as in reference to a continuity of our species.

It should not be our view of a future as if all is lost if we do not survive. What is important is the here and now until the last man breaths that last breath. There is somewhere a timelessness to life outside of our egos and linear civilizations. This somewhere is even outside of man’s DNA and fleshly growth with the whole chicken and egg question. Why is there anything and how did nothing become something. In this zone of the timeless it is where our real connection and life is. Connecting to this essence in the here and now with and through the evolution of spirt is the greatest of endeavors. Human sapience is life reflecting on itself and loosing itself.

We must push this limit without consequences or prejudice. We must ask the questions and outline man’s future of his place within himself and his “Ecos”. There is no invention or work of art greater than the attaining of this connectivity of man’s spirit with his mother. This is the highest and the lowest of man’s activity. The highest is self-explanatory. The lowest is because it is with the humility of the fragility of our material bodies that we temper this godly spirt and realize we are from the soil and will return to the soil. IOW this spirit that takes on identity will die. In that respect then our species extinction is our ultimate humility.

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