This article is relevant to our recent discussions and Zak Stein’s (see Edward’s recent post) suggestion that great destabilizing events open gaps in which new structures can supplant older, disintegrating systems–with the inherent risks and opportunities.
See Zak Stein’s reflections on how the pandemic signals the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. This could be an opportunity to transform our dominant cultural worldview if we but accept the responsibility and get busy enacting it. Just a brief excerpt follows. Click on the link and be rewarded with the rest of this inspiring scripture.
“One world is now gone and a new one has yet to emerge; we are now at the beginning of the beginning. We are living in the liminal: a time of pure potential and change, a time between worlds. This is it: we have arrived at the end of the world. Finally. Now we can start to build a new one.”
- What is humanity’s situation with respect to surviving long-term with a good quality of life? (Frame the core opportunities and obstacles.)
- What attributes of our evolved, experientially programmed brains contribute to this situation? (What are the potential leverage points for positive change within our body-brain-mind system?)
- What courses of research and action (including currently available systems, tools, and practices and current and possible lines of R&D) have the potential to improve our (and the planetary life system’s) near- and long-term prospects?
Following is a list of (only some!) of the resources some of us have consumed and discussed online, in emails, or face-to-face in 2019. Sample a few to jog your thoughts and provoke deeper dives. Please add your own additional references in the comments below this post. For each, give a short (one line is fine) description, if possible.
- In The Age of AI (Frontline video – about 2 hours)
- Cognitive aspects of interactive technology use
- The origins and evolutionary effects of consciousness
- Damasio on consciousness
- Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
- Team Human by Rushkoff
- Life 3.0 (video interview – about 1 hr 23 min)
- Life 3.0 synopsis
- Eric Brynjolfsson and Max Tegmark on ‘Life 3.0’ – exponential change (video – about 1 hr)
- Zero marginal cost society – collective commons
- Syntegration – key to innovation
- Storytelling as adaptive collective sensemaking
- How does music affect the brain?
- The neuroscience of creativity
- Is the info processing (IP) metaphor of the brain wrong?
- Intra-species evolutionary arms race drove brainpower leaps
- Evolutionary theory: Fringe or central to psychological science
- Climate change and social transformations
- Algorithm, not talent or merit, determines wealth distribution
- 2019 ‘best’ year on record for humans
- Influence of capitalism on well-being
- Does altruism exist?
- Networks thinking themselves (video – about 1 hour)
- Did ability to enter trance states enable formation of human society?
- Cultural evolution
- Free, Fair and Alive: The insurgent power of the commons
- New scientific model can predict moral and political development
- Do our models get in the way?
- 40-year update on meme theory
- Beyond free will: The embodied emergence of conscious agency
- How the internet is affecting your brain
- Ideas of Stuart Kauffman
- This link shows 12 positive benefits of meditation supported by scientific studies
- Part of the collective commons transformation is how humanity has become a hybrid cyborg with the machine, meaning the personal computer and an internet connection. It has fundamentally changed our nature to one of a mass-communicated collaborative commons. The Frontiers ebook is the tech side of that development, whereas the more social side is what Rifkin writes about.
- Heart-rate variability and social coherence
- How cooperatives are driving the new economy
- Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls
- The Age of Entanglement
- Fungi as a new model for cooperation and communication?
- The landscape of 21st century science
- The collective computation or reality in nature and society (among other great SFI resources)
- Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing
- Evolved biocultural beings
- Editorial: Evolutionary Theory: Fringe or Central to Psychological Science
- From computers to cultivation: reconceptualizing evolutionary psychology
- Evolved computers with culture. Commentary: From computers to cultivation: reconceptualizing evolutionary psychology
- Information-Processing and Embodied, Embedded, Enactive Cognition Part 1
- Frontiers – Peer-reviewed, free-access scientific journals
- Divided brain, divided world (video – about 11 mins)
- Is the power law really all dat?
- Scale-free networks are rare
- Consciousness in humanoid robots
- Journal: Human Arenas
- SFI: InterPlanetary Round Table Discussion: Our Future in Space (Neal Stephenson and others)
- Thinking devices – imitation, mind-reading, language and others – are neither hard-wired nor designed by genetic evolution
- EU Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI
- The neural and cognitive foundations of math
- AI will never conquer humanity
- The agency of cognitive artifacts
- Neuroscience: Deep breathing changes your brain
See this Evonomics article on the topic based on Tomasello’s research in this article. You can also see his latest research in his 2019 book Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny. You can find a free copy here. It supports that cooperatives are much more in line with our evolutionary heritage than the corporate structure, thus highlighting the different focuses in evolutionary theory itself.
“New peer-reviewed research by Michael Tomasello, an American psychologist and co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has synthesized three decades of research to develop a comprehensive evolutionary theory of human cooperation. What can we learn about sharing as a result?
“Tomasello holds that there were two key steps that led to humans’ unique form of interdependence. The first was all about who was coming to dinner. Approximately two million years ago, a fledgling species known as Homo habilis emerged on the great plains of Africa. At the same time that these four-foot-tall, bipedal apes appeared, a period of global cooling produced vast, open environments. This climate change event ultimately forced our hominid ancestors to adapt to a new way of life or perish entirely. Since they lacked the ability to take down large game, like the ferocious carnivores of the early Pleistocene, the solution they hit upon was scavenging the carcasses of recently killed large mammals. The analysis of fossil bones from this period has revealed evidence of stone-tool cut marks overlaid on top of carnivore teeth marks. The precursors of modern humans had a habit of arriving late to the feast.
“However, this survival strategy brought an entirely new set of challenges: Individuals now had to coordinate their behaviors, work together, and learn how to share. For apes living in the dense rainforest, the search for ripe fruit and nuts was largely an individual activity. But on the plains, our ancestors needed to travel in groups to survive, and the act of scavenging from a single animal carcass forced proto-humans to learn to tolerate each other and allow each other a fair share. This resulted in a form of social selection that favored cooperation: ‘Individuals who attempted to hog all of the food at a scavenged carcass would be actively repelled by others,’ writes Tomasello, ‘and perhaps shunned in other ways as well.’ […]
“The second step in Tomasello’s theory leads directly into what kinds of businesses and economies are more in line with human evolution. Humans have, of course, uniquely large population sizes—much larger than those of other primates. It was the human penchant for cooperation that allowed groups to grow in number and eventually become tribal societies.
“Humans, more than any other primate, developed psychological adaptations that allowed them to quickly recognize members of their own group (through unique behaviors, traditions, or forms of language) and develop a shared cultural identity in the pursuit of a common goal. ‘The result,’ says Tomasello, ‘was a new kind of interdependence and group-mindedness that went well beyond the joint intentionality of small-scale cooperation to a kind of collective intentionality at the level of the entire society.'”
It is superseding the Age of Enlightenment as the dominant paradigm. It also applies to our models, many of which still retain the apparent logical necessities of Enlightenment hierarchical categorization. Entanglement is much more hier(an)archically synplex. Yes, we are still in transition, retaining elements from the Enlightenment. And when we do see evidence of entanglement we try to fit that round peg into the old square hole. But it’s time begin to frame our evidence within that new paradigm where it makes the most sense.
From this 2016 piece that began framing it that way way back when. In the New Year and New Decade it’s time to play catch up.
“Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. And our process of creation is very different. Think of the canonical image of collaboration during the Enlightenment: fifty-five white men in powdered wigs sitting in a Philadelphia room, writing the rules of the American Constitution. Contrast that with an image of the global collaboration that constructed the Wikipedia, an interconnected document that is too large and too rapidly changing for any single contributor to even read.”
“As we are becoming more entangled with our technologies, we are also becoming more entangled with each other. The power (physical, political, and social) has shifted from comprehensible hierarchies to less-intelligible networks. We can no longer understand how the world works by breaking it down into loosely-connected parts that reflect the hierarchy of physical space or deliberate design. Instead, we must watch the flows of information, ideas, energy and matter that connect us, and the networks of communication, trust, and distribution that enable these flows.”
A question posed by this round table discussion with David Sloan Wilson, Kurt Johnson, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Richard Clugston, Zachary Stein, David Korten, Rev. Mac Legerton, Kevin Brabazon, Doug King, Mike Morrell, Ken Wilber.
Table of Contents
– Introduction: Science in a Spiritual Key, by David Sloan Wilson and Kurt Johnson
– Synopsis of Does Altruism Exist? Culture Genes and the Welfare of Others, by David Sloan Wilson
– Commentary 1: The Sacred and the Secular Can Unite on Altruism, by Kurt Johnson
– Commentary 2: When It Comes to Climate Change, Altruism Better Exist, By Richard Clugston
– Commentary 3: The Wolves of Wall Street and Superorganisms: How Social Justice Should Mimic Our Cells, by Barbara Marx Hubbard, Zachary Stein, and Marc Gafni
– Commentary 4: “Does Altruism Exist?” Wrong Question; Right Answer, by David Korten
– Commentary 5: Insects Model their Societies on Altruism. We need to become Planetary Altruists, by Rev. Mac Legerton
– Commentary 6: Altruism Comes with Age, by Kevin Brabazon
– Commentary 7: Altruism’s Path and the Rebirth of Spirituality, by Doug King and Mike Morrell
– Commentary 8: Altruism and Integral Spirituality, by Ken Wilber
– Discussion Questions about Does Altruism Exist?
– Reply to Commentaries on Does Altruism Exist?: Integrating Science and Spirituality through Action, by David Sloan Wilson
And the way forward. Granted it’s not full-blown collaborative commons but more like a healthy social democracy of the kind Sanders promotes and Scandinavia has. But I think it’s a necessary stepping stone on that road. The blurb:
“Rising inequality and growing political instability are the direct result of decades of bad economic theory, says entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. In a visionary talk, he dismantles the mantra that ‘greed is good’ — an idea he describes as not only morally corrosive, but also scientifically wrong — and lays out a new theory of economics powered by reciprocity and cooperation.”
To go with the last post, here’s an article by Douglas Rushkoff noting that optimizing human well-being should be its base. Some excerpts:
“The commons is a conscious implementation of reciprocal altruism. Reciprocal altruists, whether human or ape, reward those who cooperate with others and punish those who defect. A commons works the same way. A resource such as a lake or a field, or a monetary system, is understood as a shared asset. The pastures of medieval England were treated as a commons. It wasn’t a free-for-all, but a carefully negotiated and enforced system. People brought their flocks to graze in mutually agreed- upon schedules. Violation of the rules was punished, either with penalties or exclusion.
“The commons is not a winner-takes-all economy, but an all-take-the-winnings economy. Shared ownership encourages shared responsibility, which in turn engenders a longer-term perspective on business practices. Nothing can be externalized to some ‘other’ player, because everyone is part of the same trust, drinking from the same well.”
With subtitle: The Insurgent Power of the Commons. You can buy it or read it online as the chapters are released over time at this link. An excerpt from Part I below, now available:
“The larger story of the human species is its versatile capacity for cooperation. We have the unique potential to express and act upon shared intentionality. ‘What makes us [human beings] really different is our ability to put our heads together and to do things that none us could do alone, to create new resources that we couldn’t create alone,’ says Tomasello. It’s really all about communicating and collaborating and working together.’ We are able to do this because we can grasp that other human beings have inner lives with emotions and intentions. We become aware of a shared condition that goes beyond a narrow, self-referential identity. Any individual identity is always, also, part of collective identities that guide how a person thinks, behaves, and solves problems. All of us have been indelibly shaped by our relations with peers and society, and by the language, rituals, and traditions that constitute our cultures. In other words, the conceit that we are ‘self-made’ individuals is a delusion. There is no such thing as an isolated ‘I.’ As we will explore later, each of us is really a Nested-I. We are not only embedded in relationships; our very identities are created through relationships. The Nested-I concept helps us deal more honestly with the encompassing reality of human identity and development. We humans truly are the ‘cooperative species,’ as economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis have put it. The question is whether or not this deep human instinct will be encouraged to unfold. And if cooperation is encouraged, will it aim to serve all or instead be channeled to serve individualistic, parochial ends?”