Factors of evolution and complexity management
February 15, 2017 at 2:18 pm #23309Eric HiattParticipant
First I want to say that this is a deterministic perspective. It treats human beings as not having anything we could call free will. This is a necessary position to explore and the more people the better – especially many people who don’t believe determinism since we need diverse people who can follow the logic of debates and perspectives. The deterministic position is necessary to explore because we’re not 100% sure this is not the correct model of the human species, and determinism certainly has consequences for understanding our behavior. For example – think about the tension we feel between our homestatic drives (e.g. check out the attractive girl in line) and our more abstract cognitive capacities (e.g. it feels rude to objectify any women you see, but perhaps it’s natural and society has created a suppression given the tension sex creates in so many contexts [perhaps more or manyfold in complex society than in tribal?], etc.)
I’m not going to get into the deep particulars of what kind or depth of determinism and related issues, but in my other threads I talk about something I call memetic evolution. I’m sure the ideas aren’t original and there used to be a journal of memetics a while back, but I haven’t read it. The basic idea just to frame what follows is that the ideas you have in your mind – such the model of civilization you have that let’s you survive in the “concrete jungle” and perhaps at the global level and supplemented by basic, modern-technology-dependent “survival skills”. The point is that you have a resource-heavy existence. Memetic evolution basically says that the ideas that get encoded in human minds (i.e. neurologically embedded) will converge to exploit resources quickly or perhaps attempt exploitation “as rapidly as possible” according to some metrics, though I don’t have any offhand that would measure this as absolute. Also, I figure this evolution doesn’t occur just at the level of “ideas” but throughout neurological structure more generally. Consider then that much of our collective unconscious neurological organization could be undergoing evolutionary pressures, though I think memetic evolution might be “thermodynamically driven” in some interesting sense, but I don’t want to hand-wave an explanation now. The point, however, is that it might be important to understand the nature of memetic evolution or whatever it is that is tying all our minds together somehow on some apparent path. What is the nature of this path?
I’m basically proposing that our path as a species is as “meaningless” as the fact that minds will evolve to exploit resources, which isn’t to say it hasn’t had tremendous “incidental” benefits. Cars are a good example of absurd waste. There’s a thought experiment about a runaway AI being a “staple reproducer” and turning the solar system into staples. Well – look what we did with so many cars. Was it necessary? Well, memetic evolution explains it, and you can break it down to the level of the corporation “mind structure” trying to survive and exploiting available capitalistic mechanisms, which themselves evolved because the mind has this resource-exploiting tendency built into it. And so on.
Now in the content of determinism, consider other evolutionary factors that probably influence the human mind:
– Microbiotic evolition: The microorganisms in your body, such as the gut. Well, our gut microbiota have certainly changed rapidly with civilization. What has been the consequences on our minds? Certainly the changing chemical makeup had some effect, no matter how subtle. And the point is that there are many such effects that could be operating on the mind, which adds up to what exactly?
– Memetic evolution: Already discussed. Is also intertwined with technology and computer languages and so on just to see that I’m not trying to oversimplify it nor claim that I understand it at more than a superficial level.
– Technological evolution: Should be obvious enough to most readers here, but consider military hardware evolution as a good example.
– Genetic evolution: Changing allelic frequencies of a population was the definition I learned 20 years ago, but maybe there’s a more sophisticated definition now.
– Epigentic evolution: There are probably a lot of factors here many people don’t seem to consider. For example: Maybe our television is violent enough to produce enough stress to cause an epigentically measurable outcome in the population (and note this doesn’t have to be a bad thing – we’re not being exposed to the violence in nature so maybe there’s a “substitute” benefit like there could be with sports – or maybe it’s too much of the “wrong kind” of violence)? The one example should give a sense of the possibilities here. Incidentally – what of epigenetics in ecosystems? There has to be epigenetic feedback loops between organisms or even “epigentic networks” between organisms of sorts. I mention this because I’m hoping there’s a way to determine ecological complexity someday and the points at which it starts to break down – so we can perhaps determine when the stress on the planet could turn poor or even catastrophic in areas.
So, I propose that our minds are at the mercy of these things not to mention other general fallibilities of the mind. Many conditions in the world seem to be getting dire (e.g. ocean acidification, sea level rise, climate change, mass extinction, etc.), and by all evidence our institutions are not equipped to deal with these problems. I want to stress that our problems are the result of these evolutionary mechanisms of the mind, and our institutions themselves are nothing more than “sets of self-preserving/growing neurological organization”, which is a funny way to describe a bunch of human brains. The point is that we’re expecting institutions that thrive on resource inefficiency (and, related, sometimes suppression of beneficial alternatives) to solve our inefficiency problems. The reason so much of so many institutions exists is because of resource inefficiency.
So, if our minds our “out of control” in a sense, how do we get control of ourselves? Metacognition seems to be the most general solution I can think of. We need to become more aware of who we are and what our collective behavior and “collective mind” is – not in a mystical sense of course – just all our thinking put together. Not a hopefully specific answer, but anyone can draw up plans of attack all day.
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