joi, 28 ianuarie 2010

Posthuman hints

Evolutionary awareness shows us that it is an illusion to see ourselves or other individuals as distinct and separate entities. Individuals are inextricably part of an on-going evolutionary process. They can have no existence without that process. They are born out of it, and can have on-going effects only through what they return to it. In our mental processes, we can separate individuals out from the on-going process and consider them as independent entities. But in reality they are never separate. Without an ongoing population that reproduces and evolves through time, there can be no individuals. The population lives in and through the individuals that are its members at any particular time, but it lives on beyond them. Once we can mentally model the processes of life over time scales that are long enough, we cannot help but see that individual organisms such as ourselves are always parts of larger evolving processes.

Mentally we can abstract individuals out of this on-going process and consider them as separate and independent beings. If we do this and then ask what purpose or meaning there can be in their temporary lives, we must conclude that there can be none. From the point of view of an isolated individual, the inevitability of death makes anything he does during his life irrelevant and meaningless. If there is no afterlife, whatever he does during his short life can make no difference to himself in the long run. He still ends up dead. It is impossible to find meaning in a temporary and isolated life that is not part of some ongoing process.

This is the essence of the type of thinking that has produced the collapse of meaning and purpose in the lives of many people this century. But this thinking is wrong because its starting point is wrong. It begins with individuals who are artificially abstracted from the on-going evolutionary process. Evolutionary awareness enables us to avoid this error. It correctly sees individuals as part of an on-going and evolving process. This process continually produces new individuals and fits them out with the adaptive knowledge accumulated by the process over the billions of years it has evolved. The lives of countless organisms who have come before us have contributed to this accumulation.

During our own lives we have the chance to consciously add to this knowledge by discovering and implementing adaptive improvements, and contributing them to the on-going process. The process goes on after our death, producing new individuals who are equipped with any improvements we have contributed. In this broader context individuals are the method used by the on-going process to perpetuate itself and to discover more about how to achieve evolutionary success. Abstracted from this process, our lives make as much sense as would the lives of our cells if their relationship with our bodies is ignored.

We can live our lives as if we are separate from the on-going evolutionary process, and make no conscious contribution to it. But individuals with evolutionary awareness will not find meaning or purpose in such a life. They will find no meaning in a life spent vigorously and energetically seeking the satisfaction of their pre-existing material and emotional urges. A life dedicated to the pursuit of money, sex, power, and social status within our current social structures is a wasted life from the perspective of evolutionary awareness. Meaning can come only from taking whatever opportunities we have to contribute to the ongoing evolutionary processes that will outlive us.

But if we are to escape control by the motivations, needs, beliefs and values established in us by shortsighted evolutionary processes, we need to discover how to modify and manage these internal predispositions. We must be able to consciously manage our predispositions and our external environment so that we can find satisfaction and motivation in whatever we need to do to contribute to future evolutionary success. We must develop the psychological capacity to transcend our biological and cultural predispositions so that we can consciously adapt our behaviour in whatever way we see is necessary. Our ultimate objectives will be set by our mental modelling of future evolutionary possibilities, and we must be able to do whatever is suggested by these models. Our adaptive repertoire must not be restricted by the motivations, needs, beliefs and values established by past evolution.

Evolutionary awareness shows us that this is a challenge faced by all organisms that develop the capacity to model their evolutionary future. Any organism that develops evolutionary awareness will see that they must transcend their biological and cultural past if they are to be able to do what is necessary for future evolutionary success. They know that the organisms who will contribute most to the evolution of life in the universe are those that meet this challenge successfully. Evolutionary awareness also shows us that our struggle to develop the psychological skills needed to transcend our social and biological past is part of an evolutionary event of great significance on this planet. And it makes us aware that our growing evolutionary awareness is itself an important part of the unfolding of this evolutionary event.

As we have seen, humans have already begun to develop the psychological skills that will enable us to manage our pre-existing adaptive processes consciously. Once organisms evolve a capacity for mental modelling, it is inevitable that they will begin to learn these skills. Because mental modelling has superior foresight, it will often discover better adaptations than those established by the pre-existing adaptive processes. As the modelling capacity improves, it increasingly discovers circumstances in which existing motivations and emotional urges produce behaviour that are against the longer-term interests of the organism. To take advantage of this superior foresight, organisms begin to learn how to ensure that their behaviour is guided by their mental models, not by their pre-existing adaptive processes.

So we begin to learn to manage our sexual urges, anger and other emotional impulses when we see that it is in our longer-term interests to do so. For example, many of us learn to forgo the immediate gratification of some of our needs in order to achieve longer-term career goals. We learn to organise our thoughts, motivations and our environment to find satisfaction in study and other behaviours that serve these career goals. The logical extension of this capacity would be the ability to manage our pre-existing adaptive processes to make them consistent with our interests over all time scales, including over evolutionary scales.

As we have seen, we must turn our mental modelling inwards if we are to develop fully the psychological capacity to consciously modify and manage our pre-existing physical, emotional and mental adaptive processes. Our thoughts, beliefs, motivations and emotional states, as well as the methods we use to influence them, must become objects of consciousness. This would provide us with the self-knowledge and self-awareness needed to develop the capacity to manage our internal adaptive processes. It would enable us to develop a new “I” that is not limited or controlled in what it can do by our biological and cultural past. The new “I” would act upon our internal processes, rather than being acted upon by them.

Our reactions to external circumstances would no longer be determined automatically by our pre-existing mental and emotional predispositions. Instead our new “I” would be able to decide to intervene before these predispositions determined our reactions. Our new “I” would then be able to consciously organise a different response that is more appropriate to our evolutionary objectives. It would see what we must do to contribute to future evolutionary success and would produce this behaviour by consciously managing our internal processes, and intervening in them. The result would be an organism that is able to recreate and reinvent itself through conscious choice as often as is necessary to meet evolutionary demands.

The development of this new psychological software would free individuals from their biological and cultural past. It would produce individuals who are self-evolving and who therefore have a completely new evolutionary status. We saw earlier that individuals who are not self-evolving must be temporary if evolution is to proceed successfully. Individuals with restricted adaptability and evolvability would stall evolution if they live forever. For this reason, organisms who are not self-evolving but whose overriding objective is to contribute to the successful evolution of life would not attempt to achieve immortality. To do so would contradict their fundamental purpose.

But a being that is truly self-evolving would not impede evolution if it lived forever. If an individual were truly capable of adapting in whatever ways are demanded by future evolutionary needs, it would not have to die for evolution to proceed. Evolution could try out new possibilities without having to replace the individual. New possibilities could be fully explored within a self-evolving individual. The internal adaptive processes of self-evolving beings have the capacity to adapt freely in any direction. With the emergence of self-evolving individuals, the evolutionary process would be internalised within the individual.

The acquisition of evolutionary awareness would also show each of us that if humanity is to achieve future evolutionary success, we must not only transform ourselves, we must also transform our societies. Our individual efforts to contribute to the successful evolution of life will be futile without radical changes to our social organisation. It is only through the formation of cooperative organisations of larger scale and greater evolvability that humanity can participate successfully in the future evolution of life in the universe.

We must continue the progressive evolution on this planet that has seen molecular processes organised into cells, cells organised into multicellular organisms, and organisms organised into societies.

John Stewart, Evolution's Arrow. The direction of evolution and the future of humanity. 2000, The Chapman Press, Canberra, pp. 156 - 158

5 comentarii:

Camil Stoenescu spunea...

cam utopic-optimist nenea, în special în ceea ce privește capacitatea de evoluție individuală. oricum, interesant :)

Starbuck spunea...

Il prefer pe Jon Stewart.

individul_x spunea...

"Abstracted from this process, our lives make as much sense as would the lives of our cells if their relationship with our bodies is ignored."
Exista astfel de celule, sunt celulele CANCEROASE, care se decupleaza de la interesul organismului si actioneaza pe cont propriu.

Putem vedea corespondendul acestor celule in societatea noastra de azi sub diverse forme, in foarte multe randuri ca politicieni, magnati, industriasi, etc..

"We must continue the progressive evolution on this planet that has seen molecular processes organised into cells, cells organised into multicellular organisms, and organisms organised into societies"

Exact asa cum spune nenea asta. Mi se pare ca e o dovada cel putin de ignoranta, sa crezi ca omul, individul, este lucrarea perfecta a evolutiei, dupa care aceasta isi pierde rostul.

Parerea mea este ca e deja evident ca noi toti, formam un organism complex, pe care nu il putem face sa functioneze altfel decat colaborand, altfel decat reinventand si slefuind regulile dupa care functionam, permanent.
Doar in momentul in care scopurile fiecaruia din noi, vor fi derivate direct, din scopul comun al omenirii, putem spune ca am trecut la urmatoarea faza a evolutiei noastre..
Iar schimbarile sociale vor aparea ca efecte emergente ale schimbarii indivizilor care le compun..

ana spunea...

cunosc cel putin 2 persoane care vad nemurirea exact asa si si traiesc astfel incat motivatia lor pentru actiune vine din perspectiva asupra evolutiei una sunt prea piloZoafa ca sa pot crede onest ca evolutia inseamna neaparat progres fapt, daca ma caznesc putin, pot crede asta insa nu voi putea evalua niciodata pe bune daca evolutia e pozitiva sau negativa.

individul_x spunea...

Evolutia doar este. A incerca sa-i pui o eticheta de genul pozitiv sau negativ nu are sens.
Si-ar mai fi o chestie. Evolutia nu se opreste, ea continua, cu noi sau fara noi.
Intrebarea este, vom continua sa ne comportam ca si cum evolutia s-a oprit cu noi, sau constienizam faptul ca putem contribui la acest proces?
Apoi ne putem intreba, ce face evolutia?
Organizeaza materia in structuri din ce in ce mai complexe ( Evolution's Arrow )
Pornind de la starea curenta a omenirii, care ar fi urmatorul pas, in aceasta directie?