Looking for real solutions to explore answers to important existential questions
February 13, 2017 at 7:38 pm #23289
I proposed a model here a while a go that tried to explain civilization. It was a clumsy formulation and the problem is too complex given its neurological basis (i.e. the structure of civilization must be reflected in neurological tendencies, limitations, etc.) to ever be possible to prove for some time, but I think it’s a theory that makes intuitive sense and I’m certain that it’s not original -I’ve seen elements of the idea various places, but never explored with the angles I have in mind as far as I’ve researched.
The idea is that civilization evolves according to memetic evolution, but this idea is deeper than simply “ideas with survival value” are passed on. Much of this is speculation, but I think memetic evolution involves several layers of neurological organization, has feedbacks with epigenetic mechanisms, and is “continous” with biological evolution. I’m not going to explore all those ideas here, but I am going to explore the continuity of neurological organization with biological organization, but note quickly that their coupling then suggests possible “symbiotic” relationships or some other kind of coevotion. An easy example is the retina. The retina of the eye is sensitive to certain environmental features – edge contrasts, shadows changing in size or moving, etc. – and these features are then represented in how we consciously see the world, and hence presumably how we process the world in some fashion. So, our retinal circuitry creates a limitation on how information can get encoded in our brain, but this biology is subject to biological evolution, while the encoded information can get processed and structured in various ways and incorporated into various schemas and so forth in ways that are clearly subject to evolutionary pressures. Just imagine two tribes with differently structured minds and let them compete. There will be differentials in collective behavior that should result in a winner. The increased fitness of the winner should allow the memetic propagation of their tribal ideas and technology. There isn’t a good analogy with allele frequency here, but the relative frequency of “kinds of neurological organization” is changing and culminating in the “emergent behaviors” we tend to notice at our habitual level of perception.
Another important idea the the fact that the “memetic content” of the mind is correlated with resource usage. The more resources a particular “neurological organization” demands the more likely it is to succeed. This is because of a lot of factors like game theoretical competition, aggressiveness inherent to resource acquisition, and so on, but there’s an evolutionary reason all this aggression exists everywhere – at the biological and ideological levels, which are intimately intertwined. Memetic evolution occurs at a lot of levels as well. Since we’re limited in the number of people we can take account of, bubbles of organization naturally exist, and these organizations can become corrupt and unaccountable as a whole and this will be determined be resource exploitation because this determines the survival of the organization. So – we have organizations evolving to exist within organisations and their evolution is determined by resource exploitation in competition with other organizations (though there can be symbiosis with competitive organizations at the same time, etc.). This is really rushed, but it takes a long time to explain this in full, and I can’t even do it in full. The implications are pretty vast, however.
This is getting long so I’m just going to end with a few existential questions, but I’ve set up the framework of discussion – a theory of human thought, which is little more than a reflection of resource usage. Now – what if this is all completely out of control? For example: Are we 100% sure there’s something called “free will” we can use to make the right decisions when we need to? The reason I came up with the idea of memetic evolution was largely driven by the need to consider the possibility that we don’t have free will. What if our thoughts are determined or at least colored and shaded by the thinking systems that are the most resource demanding?
If we’re not 100% sure that human beings are not 100% deterministic machines that are, for example, memetically evolving in such a way that exploits as many resources as rapidly as possible simply because that’s the strategy that propagates the thought systems able to acquire the resources needed for their own propagation, then we need to consider models of humanity that are deterministic and what the consequences are. This is a matter of utmost existential concern when you think about it, and I’ve touched lightly on one such deterministic model and hinted at the consequences, but my implication is that the consequences we’re seeing now with climate change, mass extinction, etc. are explained by this model.
Does this model have validity? And regardless – there is some model of humanity. What it is, and where can it possibly be discussed with consequence for world affairs? We can’t keep behaving like accidents of evolution. Our ancient homeostatic architecture is not sufficient for complex technological society. So what is?
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