on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for the ‘nature of reality’ Category

Shared Reality

Our environmental and social crisis has many unexpected repercussions and consequences, not all of them negative. As we are running out of the Earth’s resources, it made us think about and research nonmaterialistic societies, the origins of altruism, and human nature. Our collective unconsciousness, as whole humanity assumed more of the undertone; “what’s wrong with us?” And because the niche crisis obviously plays itself in the broad dimensions of time and space, these questions force us to be more aware of our deep past and (unfortunately) not-so-distant future.

The new data from neuroscience, prehistory, and linguistics allowed us to rethink human origins.

The discovery is simple and (like the notion that we come from monkeys) startling. Our reality is created by the human mind. Without the human mind, there is no reality. While the construction of this reality started recently, about 50,000 years ago by our human hybrid mind, it is based on our brain’s ancient algorithms and perception systems millions of years old. 

Since this new reality’s construction started, in the Upper Paleolithic period, every infant repeats this feat and builds reality simultaneously with building language, and selfhood in the first year of life. Every animal has its own world, only one, but we have two- an ancient, instinctual world of algorithms and the new one, shared with the rest of humans, symbolic, linguistic, attached to consciousness. As I will explain later, it started from sharing and naming simple things- like the baby does- but it is the only reality we know! And the only reality there is. ( “is”, the concept of existence, is the intrinsic part of this new system, and is related to  the concept of “self”)

What does it mean for the everyday person? How do these instinctual and new systems work together in our brains? The ancient, instinctual system works all the time-breathing, feelings, and moods- but when we talk to others, write, and use the language, this new system seamlessly piggybacks on the old one.

The things are real, the stone when kicked- hurts.  But: as everything is invented by the nervous system of our ancestors, so all kinds of extraterrestrials and supernaturals are also invented. And all cosmos to add. And everything that exists. Existence as a concept is probably a very recent invention. 

But, how about evolution. This new thing couldn’t have sprouted out of our brain suddenly, out of blue. 

 That’s right, it couldn’t. This is the hypothesis explaining the possible origins and the mechanism of the generation of this strange hybrid system. 

This is the new sequence of events:

 Some of them will appear in boldface, denoting my hypothetical thinking, the rest is well known. I do not need to defend my hypotheses, it will be written soon in detail by some super-professors from MIT or Oxford. ( I am going to be like Alfred Russell Wallace of shared reality).

8 million years ago: split from bonobos: both branches “worked” on the social niche, possibly our ancestors benefited from some minor mutation making it easier to communicate by sound.

Bonobos stayed with social communications via grooming, pheromones, and sex. Homo was improving a variety of sound production and/or discerning. It might have forced parietal hearing and memory centers to grow, made brains even bigger and childhood even longer. The sound system was perfect for prelinguistic algorithms improving cooperation, band organization, and defense. We can imagine that these improved signs and sound utterances are short outwardly but in the brain, they were part of algorithms growing longer and clumsier, part of million years of building, and very difficult to teach, especially without the concept of self.

4 million years ago: another split- “Robustus” branches worked more on using the big brains to defend themself against changes in the environment, mostly glaciation periods. They culminated in producing the Neardenthal, extremely strong, practical, “street-smart”. The “Gracilis “ branches continued with prosocial communications with homo Erectus sporting some evidence of the concept of the unknown, awe, burials, curiosity, and altruism. The benefits were slowly increasing but liabilities and dangers were enormous. Without the concept of self and of names of objects, the algorithms can do only so much in the material world.

Still, some of them managed to escape the climate deterioration- “first diffusion” 1, 7 million years ago. 

500 000 years ago, the last split into “Robustus”- Neanderthal and “Gracilis” -homo sapiens. The sapiens were eusocial, emotional, and emphatic, but still prelinguistic.

( I realize, that for many it will be impossible to imagine such a sophisticated and mature culture without symbolic language).

This gave us, our ancestors, some advantage over other groups but changes in climate eventually killed everybody except a few thousand sapiens remaining, somehow overlapping (Southern Europe or North Africa) with the dying remnants of Neanderthals. They kept improving proto-language, cooperation, altruism, and friendship, but the progression of the material culture was very slow.

My hypothesis suggests that the advances of social intelligence, with big brains without selfhood and language reached its limits– like many of the other intelligent and social species. At least 26 branches of hominids died and the Sapiens population was reduced to several thousand. The formidable social skills couldn’t protect against their environment, especially considering periodical glaciations and the eruptions of the mega-volcanoes during the last 100 000 years. 

50,000 or 40,000 years ago: This small group of brightest, most altruistic, and eloquent homo sapiens survived, they are our ancestors. I imagine a combination of three major factors and a lot of luck. 

  1. Close-knit family, they are on the move,(escaping cold or drought or other animals) trying to survive, and a lot of talking.
  2. Extended childhood, toddlers practicing talking, adults listening. 
  3. Possible elements of translation, desperate contact with other groups or Neanderthals with a different language, and utilization of a child’s learning process.

This is the imagined sequence of events: Proto language communication with sound being a part of a complex algorithm is understood by a child or foreigner as the name of the simple thing. Repeated back as such it creates a circle of people sharing a reality. The name and its meaning are attached to the person who used it. 

( the woman says: “ apples need to be picked up”,  the child cries pointing: “apples, apples”, and a foreigner says: “you called it apples?” and the woman repeats: ”yes, apples”)

Enormous social advantages are immediate. 

My hypothesis is that symbolic language, shared reality, selfhood and consciousness are the same thing, started together, as recently as 50,000 years ago, and are responsible for our survival and success.

50000 to 10000 years ago: The event described above ushered us into the next 40,000 years of the “Golden Age”.

The climate was excellent and shared reality and linguistic skills spread with trade, social life, art, and religion. It was the world before the Big Flood.

It took many generations for the concepts of ownership have become connected to power and pleasure. Humans were non-materialistic, so inequality was different than we can imagine. It could be appearance, being “close to higher powers”, personal skills, the rhetorical skills.  The “power”, still without material wealth, could be more fluid, societies changed from season to season. Huge monuments and mounds were built and destroyed without hierarchy, bureaucracy, and much of inequality. New archeological discoveries in Turkey, Stonehenge, and Meso-America suggest that.

10.000 years ago to the present. Domestication of people, plants, and animals. The “primordial sin’- materialism, eventually caught up with us. Shared reality allowed for agriculture, technology, and inequality. A thin layer of greed spread over our bran new world of things, relationships and gods. Empires and Religions rose and fell until the circle seems to be closing up and we are facing… each other again.

This timetable, based on the development of a hybrid brain changes the evolutionary view of human nature.

Homo sapiens emerged with an almost suicidal drive towards sociality, empathy, altruism, and emotionality. We used primates’ big brains, and rich sensory worlds fueling curiosity, especially the curiosity of others. Then we “bet” on sound-mediated communication, which turned out to be the “winner” bringing us off the brink of extinction.

The sound-mediated communication culminated in the invention of the language-selfhood-shared reality complex. 

This new toy combined with the relatively good climate gave us the abundance of the “Golden Age” with gods, art, and technology. Humans flourished spreading all over the planet.

And then, just recently,10, 000 years ago, let me repeat it: a thin slimy layer of greed appeared. 

How, why not earlier? It seems that the domestication process and concentration of the huge amount of people created the all-pervading illusion of happiness based on ownership.

Materialism, then capitalism and now we have to tame it or die. 

But, evil is not in our nature, we know that the happiness and satisfaction it gives are not real. Can we teach the new generation to get high on experiences?

What is a hybrid mind and where does it come from

We, humans, go through our lives using two completely different mental systems.​​ One is ancient, inherited from our animal ancestors, “algorithmic”, always active ( I will talk about it shortly), and the other system- which is very, very separate and new, just about 50,000 thousand years old.

To illustrate this shocking concept I will use a metaphor and a parable.

If you ask what is a hybrid car, the answer is very simple: it uses two engines, sometimes it is electric and sometimes an old-fashioned combustion engine.

  Many scientists think that a similar metaphor can be useful to understand our human mind.

It would be appropriate to leave this to science, but in the 21st century, the subject of human nature is very important for our survival as a species.

As we desperately try to avert the doom and gloom of the environmental disaster, this metaphor can unexpectedly bring a glimmer of hope, the way to work, and chances of survival. ( “Rome conference or die” talks a lot about our niche crisis).

Simple animals have brains full of evolutionary beneficial algorithms, like codes, and instructions of “if so it is good to do this”, but “if that, it is better to do something else”.

These algorithms are different from computer codes invented by a bunch of geeks- they were selected over literally billions of years by evolutionary mechanisms.

They include everything that we feel is right, good, and real.

They aim to help us to 1. Survive

                                2. Multiply

                                 3. Protect our genes

They aim at keeping the species’ niches as strong as possible.

So, these instructions are really, really smart.

Our brains are full of them, it is why our brains are so huge.  They direct all automatic functions, breathing, digesting, seeing, fighting covid, fearing covid, disliking covid vaccines, balancing these two, and many other instinctual functions.

But when you meet a friend, suddenly you are piggybacking on “great to see her” or “who is she?” a completely new system. You chat. The language. These ancient algorithms would not do.

Why? They are big and clumsy. And the more complex they are and the more branches these instructions branch themselves into, the clumsier they become. But the crucial difference between these two systems (Merlin Donald in ” A mind so rare“calls ours the first hybrid brain) is that: The algorithms create the world for the organism that is its own, it can not be shared- it is why animals learn poorly- and teach poorly. My hypothesis suggests that like animals, hominids with all their intelligence and culture did not have symbolic language. They were ready for it though.

So, they did not have “I” or” you” or “self”, they did not have” things” in their communications, no creativity, no imagination, no mathematics. It is actually extremely difficult for us to imagine and describe with words living in that pre-linguistic world, animal algorithms world.

About a hundred years ago Jacob von Uexkull ( A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans:1934), imagined and described the life of a tick, he called its world UMWELT.- perception and action, perception and action, etc, etc. Then in 1974, Thomas Nagel wrote: “What it is like to be a bat” saying basically-” we do not know, we need new concepts or theories”.

Thus a Parable: A dying Neanderthal is rescued by some women from the Sapiens band.

The time is about 50,000 years ago. The Neandertals were decimated by climate and by technologically advanced Sapiens.  The content of our DNA suggests that very few Sapiens (10 thousand or less) and no other hominids survived this period after Mount Tuba’s and Campi Flegrei’s eruptions.

But soon (after a few thousand years ) these survivors flourish, populating Africa, Europe, the Fertile Crescent, and then the rest of the globe.

What happened?

Pre-linguistic Sapiens -maybe helped by Neanderthals, maybe by extended childhood- (see below)- were inventing symbolic language, selfhood, and shared reality.

The Last Neanderthal

Hunger. Hunger and freezing.

The clouds are lower, bad, it is going to be more snow.

It’s getting dark but need to get to the bottom of the mountain, there can be a cave, or at least a rock overhanging. Can make a camp there. A camp?

What kind of camp? There is nobody here.

Again cold black despair. Damn, there was the son, a wonderful, strong boy.

Is gone, gone, gone, did not withstand the cold.

Hungry froze, died.

Burial in despair, crying digging the bloody snow. It was two or three days ago.

Earlier (the Moon was full), it was the Woman.

She was not eating so the son could have her food.

She died , frozen, still wonderful, incredible.

She explained, she showed where to go. She said, showed: “ go, go, need to go following the Sun”

But there could be Others. No strength, no people to fight, they will kill.”

She said again and again:

No worry, go, go , following the Sun, no worry, no fear about the Others, need to follow the Sun

She died, need to go, go further.

Tiredness, hunger, freezing.

The wind goes to the bones, everything hurts.

Step after step, step after step.

Rest… No.

No more food? Chewing my sheepskin, my leather belt, ate some rotten crumbs at the bottom of the sack.

Finished , and nothing was left. Only step after step, following the direction where there was the Sun.

Now it is getting dark, getting even colder, the wind.

Still walking… still walking?

The Woman and the Son are already here?

Darker and darker.

A tiny light.

Fire? Impossible.

There is a light, red light.

Fire. No, can not be, there was no storm or lighting since the last New Moon.

But there is, there is, something flickering like a fire. Our people? There are no our people there. Others!

Need to get there, fire means warmth.

Remember warm?

No, no.

They will kill, no strength to fight, barely walking.

What to do? Fear and hunger. The Woman says “go, go.

So, step after step, step after step, whatever…

 Maybe, possible to approach stealthily, steal food? Is this possible?

Fear, terrible fear.

Fire.

 Shadows of Others, now visible. Women?? A child??

Suddenly, Wrrump!

Falling in the ditch, thud. Terrible pain, in the leg.

Nothing.

Now warm, really warm. Difficult to breathe, cough, cough it out. Spit out the phlegm, better.

Warm.

Run!, need to run! No. The body doesn’t move, and this bad pain in the leg.

So, crawling, maybe? The cave. The Other. An old woman, showing something.

Don’t run”? Yes, that’s it “ Don’t run

Aha. “Lie down” and Leg, no good”.

Eat?” she gestures.

Cough, fever, everything hurts. “Drink, drink”.

She repeats the gesture ” Drink”,

And: “Yes, wait

Warm drinking! warm and good, salty?-Throat burning.

More”.

That’s it, thanks,

WHY?

What?

Sleep.

The night feels hot, the pain in the leg, can’t run. The Moon is full! so many days?

How come? Sleep.

The Others scream. What?

A young Other with the spear! Fear. He wants to kill. The old woman screams the child cries, and an old Other came, screams. Pushing young killer away.  An old woman gestures, “no fear, no worry, you are mine”.

Thanks.

More days.

The child, a little girl, laughs, and brings “sweet and tart” food. Very good.

Another woman. Beautiful. She gives warm meat, ah, so good, so beautiful, so good.

Walking slowly, with pain, but better.

There is nobody around, only Little Girl.

Hearing something terrible, oh, so well known, terrible killer on the four legs. Sensing it, smelling, feeling its ugly breath. Even if it tries to crawl quietly. The little girl. It is ready to pounce on her.

Need to be saved, need to live. A spear is here, pain, pain. Only slim chance, all my strength, NOW.

A huge shadow hit in the air. Now this sharp stone and break its eyes, its skull, HIT, HIT,

Its claws tear stomach, ouch, and it is dead. The little girl screaming, runs to me, blood everywhere.

The others running here, the terrible four-legged lying pierced with a spear, skull broken.

Old woman, the Beautiful, crying, screaming. Thanking??

Black., nothing…

The Moon is New, how many days??

The stomach wound is still terrible, oozing. Sleep.

The little girl gives “sweet and tart’. She laughs, and dances.

The Beautiful teaches Little Girl. It is good.

The Little Girl shows, pointing with her little finger: “this?”

The Beautiful responds “ apple”.

“Hmm?”

She turns and looks at me: “Call it apple

APPLE????

The Beautiful laughs, falling in love: “yes, apple”.

The end of the parable.

We met our “last Neanderthal”, he lives on instincts, the ancient and newer algorithms. The new science, “archaeogenetics” tells us that neanderthals split from homo ancestry about 500,000 years ago, just before symbolic language was developed. But in the last few lines of the parable, he discovers “me” and “you” and “apple” (a thing), and very soon, I am sure he will try to have as many apples as possible to impress The Beautiful (and the Old Woman).

It could have happened for the first time with the help of our Hero and the Beautiful, but it occurs in every human infant who learns shared reality, names, the language.

Every human baby is born with inherited instincts, similar to these of the primitive hominid.

But she is surrounded, she is “bathed” in human language, names, things, people, and actions.

As our Hero tries to understand the budding language of Sapiens, every human infant begins to understand some words (around 3 to 6 months of age) then the objects and names merge into Piaget’s “object permanence” (around 9 months), and then she starts to point and practice first words.

Back to the parable:  Where did the “apple” come from? It was still like a miracle or an extremely rare event. Unlikely modern infants, the Little Girl was not surrounded by human speech and names of objects. Instead, she was exposed to useful responses and skills she had to practice and imitate. The Beautiful could have used the word ”apple” before, as a part of an instinctual action-related expression, like “going to pick up apples”. Teaching the child was pretty normal, but teaching our hero and getting his understanding- was an incredible breakthrough. In the end, these three ancient people, the Neanderthal, Beautiful; and Little Girl shared the piece of the algorithm, the concept, the name, the thing- an apple.

It was the magic of translation- the magic of naming, and we could imagine that new words and concepts of self “I” and “You “ and other simple “things” followed and streamed like an avalanche.

The language with objects and people opened so far forbidden domains of ownership and calculating. And the hominids were (at last) ready for this critical jump, they were not only ultra-social but also “ultra” engaged with material culture (Colin Renfrew, Prehistory). This was the beginning of the world we now call “reality”. It was a different world than ticks or bats… and hominids’. It was a uniquely human reality shared in this social circle and soon shared by all humans.

When in 1769 Cook’s expedition encountered Haush people on Tierra Fuego they could use gestures, “play charades” and understand each other ( see “The Language Game” by Christiansen and Chater). Both groups had language, the “things”, the “I “and “you” concepts invented by their ancestors; the last Neanderthal, Little Girl, and Beautiful.

This concept challenges the belief deep-seated in our collective unconsciousness, an image of a human being as a smarter animal. When you open the skull you have the same brain as an animal but bigger. When scientists look into its function, again it is the same but smarter, more complex, with more memory, better thinking, etc.

Morals, spirituality, and understanding are all better and deeper than animals. When I and my cat are looking through the window we see the same world. When we err, we go back to “primitive” behavior and we act like “animals”.

The consequences of this unspoken myth are profound. It implies that we can’t change, can’t be blamed, and can’t be responsible. The forces that created this mess are beyond us, whether divine or “in our genes.” Or most likely: “whatever”. Even religious people who do not believe in the evolution of animals into humans see the human world as essentially the same as animals but more complex.

So, the new paradigm, the hybrid mind: the ancient and newer algorithms are working constantly, the instinctual world separated for each of us, but when we talk, write, think creatively, when we act consciously, we piggyback new reality, a new World built in the infancy shared by every human, and by humans only.

This is how interdependent we are and how vulnerable is this new part of our nature.

Origins of materialism (reading A.Hinton’s Understanding context)

Reading Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. ( version 7.11.21)

  1. Introduction: animals’ language, human language, and computer language: three languages, same principles. 
  2. Part I: A case against relativism and homo translensis. 
  3. Part II: The origin of things
  4. Conclusions: three languages linked to three events.

Introduction:

  Eve is a very, very smart 5 year old. She sits in front of the basket of apples, the knife in her hand. Her sister, Fiona, barely 18 months old, walking, talking, and asking questions, noticed that one apple fell from the basket. “What’s that?” she asks and points to the apple.

 Miraculously, Eve answers: “apple!”.

I will try to explain why this answer was really a miracle. 

 Now we have to add that they sit in front of a cave, the knife is made of stone, and it is all happened 50 thousand years ago. It means that in Eve’s brain there are many, many neural networks, useful for homo sapiens, that include different fruits. These algorithms help Eve “ find apples”, “tell apples from pears”, “chop apples for sauce”, “eating an apple” and so on. But in her brain- and this is a part of this essay’s hypothesis-there is no “apple” as an object. But, somehow, miraculously, breaking the algorithm, separating a piece of her reality, her environment, from its function, she answers “apple”! 

    This essay is about the nature of our surroundings. It might also, while discussing surroundings, give us some glimpses at our nature. 

    The surroundings of an animal are, from the point of view of this animal (sic!), determined by the activity and sophistication of its nervous system. From our, human, point of view, we can only muse: “What is it like to be a bat” and agree that we’ll never be sure. 

It doesn’t stop science from working on the nature of experience. Ecology, ethology, and semiotics are all about it. And philosophy- like phenomenology and natural philosophy.

    The animal’s senses and its brain create the animal’s world which Jacob von Uexkull called Umwelt. Again, depending on the point of view, the same thing, we can call a “habitat”, “niche”, “environment” or just “what’s outside”.

Depending on the point of view… or “context” ( we are going to abuse this term mercilessly). When scientists are talking about an animal’s surroundings some more shifts occur( I mean shifts in the conversation’s perspectives we usually do not notice because it is so ”normal” for us). In biology, like in modern physics, the results of investigations change with the actions of the observer, his or her attitude, purpose, method, and prevailing scientific paradigm. Think about the interpretation of prehistoric fossils or ancient artifacts. And using the term “context” emphasizes the fluidity of the thing or even its arbitrariness.

I have been working on people’s personal worldviews for the last 10 years. What is the worldview if not a point of view ( or context) from which we see the world? And what is understanding context if not transforming the implicit, unconscious, gut felt, and acted worldview into an explicit, spelled out, clarified set of rules and structures that help us navigate our life? 

When a postmodernist like Derrida or Foucault talks about their beloved context it becomes something very abstract, like a cloud of meanings surrounding a concept or a story.

“This does not suppose that the mark is valid outside its context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring. This citationality, duplication, or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is not an accident or anomaly, but is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could no longer even have a so-called “normal” functioning”. (Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy)

Yes, the philosophers and scientists tried to handle the question of context/surroundings (see above), but it was not until computer people explained this to us that we got some traction.  Computers help us to solve the problems of the real physical world. We need them for health, economy, research, communication, basically for everything we do. 

The computer people squeeze all our problems into the screen.  Then, they have to translate or shift the domain of the physical world into language and symbols, then translate these semantic elements into a digital world. Then, after they crunched the numbers they proceed to reverse the process back to the screen jargon, and voila, they are done. 

When computer guys (like Hinton) talk about context, this cloud of meaning, even if stuck inside a computer screen, becomes much more physical, more like a place or a map. This concreteness, physicality even if strange in the virtual world, feels natural for them. They are living there, working there, creating and designing the content and the contexts itself around it. They interchangeably use the terms for context like “environment” and for working with it – “architecture”. It is why Hinton uses Gibsonian ecology as the model for understanding context in this novel, rich and useful way. Following his lead in this essay, we will blend discussion on the computer environment with the physical human environment and cultural-semantic environment.

Part One: A case against relativism – introducing homo translensis and “domain hopping”.

 This introduction might suggest that the nature of our surroundings- which is nothing else than our reality, our solid, real Universe is not so solid. This talk about shifting domains, of the point of view, of the role of the observer in modifying reality; it all smells like relativism. And, how properly for our times when relativity rules. Gone are our basics, our standards, and our rocks.  God is dead (Nietsche ), the President lies (everybody knows)  the corporations cheat (they mean to do it) and the media is full of fake news.  But humans know better. Relativism doesn’t help, doesn’t solve any conflict, it is the queen of the stalemate.

The trick of relativism failed us with religious wars, with religion versus science dilemma, even with biology vs humanities squabble. Where did Cartesian duality take philosophy? Well, pretty close to its demise.

 The insight for the better way comes to me from Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. Hinton starts with a story- him, a computer geek, catching a plane. He leads the reader through a number of overlying contexts: his iPhone, with his calendar and schedule, his office computer, a colleague’s laptop, the airport’s computers-security, and the cashier’s – the main object of interest hops from screen to screen- his flight. He switches domains and environments- digital, physical, and linguistic – he walks (or runs) through the airport, the shuttle, and (at last) the plane. He has to understand and hop through all these meanings -symbols, icons, messages from outside and inside. Unlike Derrida’s contexts- his are very, very real.  I realized while reading his book that coping, conquering, and understanding different contexts and environments sits deep in human nature. Switching domains- actually holding them simultaneously in the mind for a moment- this what understanding is- it is like translating from language to language and comprehending- using them both. I also realized that these processes- these “domain hopping”- are everywhere.

Cartoon # 1

As a senior pediatrician, I talk to every new employee, a doctor, a nurse, or a front desk person. I always draw for them and explain these symbols: “The circle. This means empathy- we are one-we are equal- we embrace them with real or symbolic arms. The second is a square: we translate their square problems into something we can help him with, the third is “plugin” or action- or complete- do what you need to do and document it so you can have a clear mind ready for the next one”. 

Both, understanding and following these instructions – require constant shifting contexts or domains. The other examples are meditation and prayer- you shift between the transcendent and your mind.

So, the truth is there, real and important. It is not the truth that is relative, it is the context, the view, the way of looking, that shifts. I mentioned “domain hopping” and I will return to it, but I think it is how our curiosity and obsession with figuring things out, works. We are ” homo translensis”- we know one thing, then we stick the same thing in different domains or media, or modes. It is like translating from one language to another: for a precious moment, we have to hold both things or thoughts or truths in our minds. This is understanding and it is everywhere.

Our computerized world just made it so obvious.  

So, was it always like that?

Part II.  A hypothesis. “The origin of things”.

     No, it was not. In his recent book, Peter Godfrey-Smith explains how the mind works for very simple and very ancient animals- mollusks, cephalopods, or fish. Their simple brains connect perception with action and maybe “presence” in one experience of living. From “if”- perception, to “then”- action, like a procedure code in your desktop. 

It is extremely hard to imagine a world without things. In my hypothesis – this was the world until about 50,000 years ago. The forests were full of birds, monkeys, and hominids – full of life, intelligence, and communications, but none of these creatures had discrete objects in their worlds.

What was going on 50.000 years ago? 

This we know:

Like dinosaurs 260 million years ago, about the last 10 million years witnessed a phenomenal expansion of great apes. 

 These monkeys invented complexity unheard of before. They were, as great E.O Wilson tells us,  hypersocial or eusocial, rivaling only a few other genera like ants, bees, termites, etc. But unlike others they had huge brains, hands to manipulate objects, and communications based on vision and sound. Many bands and tribes evolved and were selected for cooperation, and altruism. They were spreading to more and more diverse habitats. They invented axes, spears, and fire. They developed cultures with burials, art, stories, and gods. And they were avid learners. We know of 27 major branches of hominids.

They all died out, except for one small group or tribe- 10,000 individuals or less- us.

 This part is pretty much accepted and non-controversial. 

But from now on- hold on to your seat.

Their communication or proto-language was based on procedure code. Just like very primitive animals’ communication.

The animal brain as we understand it contains only algorithms coding for evolutionary beneficial behaviors (traits), probably nothing more. Anything else would be energetically prohibited- impossible. And the more complex these neural networks are, the more “costly” they are and benefits have to be more striking for the new trait to survive and expand. It is the pressure to develop the brain versus the pressure to evolve muscles or fur. Example: the process of domestication of wolves to dogs-  dogs can “ handle” and “understand” humans better than wolves but they “pay” with weaker muscles and smaller teeth.

Over the eons of evolution, big brains become very costly- and still are.

The communication algorithms allow for social and cultural complexity-equivalent of our knowledge-were becoming more and more elaborate- say like bee dance or skill to become alpha male, or telling a story and false story and magic story. It is difficult to imagine that, but half of the algorithm, like in procedure code, has no sense. The algorithms have branches, maybe thousands of them but no modularity. So the learning slowed down, the evolutionary pressure and competition between muscle and intelligence became more fierce. !00 thousand years ago it might appear that robust, stronger hominids ( h. Neanderthalensis )prevail over “gracile” (sapiens). Over the last 6 million years the increase in complexity slowed down. Stone axes were still stone axes after millions of years!

Note: Everybody agrees with these simple biological facts… when we talk about bacteria, spiders, even fish. When we start to talk about more complex animals, magically they become more like us, especially pets or animals one spent all one’s life investigating ( chimpanzees, octopuses). Their behavior might look like ours, but their minds and learning work more like neural nets of modern AI than ours hybrid brains.

So, it is like the story of “primordial soup” to explain the creation of life with the abundance of all rare elements, warmth, sun, lightning storm, oxygen, and nucleotides swimming around and hoping for a stroke of luck…

Similarly, our ancestors, with super socially intelligent people, migrating under the pressure of stronger hominids had great language, and great parenting, and Eve and Fiona had a moment of genius.  Eve was in the “magic years” period, Fiona in the “joint attention” pointing phase, and humanity was in the “dream world” phase.

Thus, Eve, miraculously, shares the piece of the procedure code her sister pointed to. Preposterous! The pieces of codes have no meaning- well, they did not until now- from now on her and her sister share the concept and a piece of a new reality- an apple. This single event has to be combined with creating or just naming each other’s self (thanks for the close-knit family, talking constantly)- otherwise, it would have to be invented over and over-and this is impossible! The apple was Fiona’s and Eve’s first shared, independent from the procedure code, thing. I imagine that the next step was to share this with Mom and Dad.

     Animals do not do that, there are no objects in the Umwelten.*  With the object, like an apple, there is a cascade of benefits, there is no looking back. The things do not exist unless and until named. The name/thing duo can be easily shared with others, it has attributes, it has quantity. This brings abstract concepts floating around our apple. Most importantly with a thing, you can want it, own itand share it. Actually, the meaning of “apple” contains its origins. It is as if  Eve said, “I  call it apple”- pointing to the metaphoric and cultural nature of this thing. I imagine that for many, many generations the new world of things coexisted with an old world of procedure codes, of perception-action arc, where if is a primitive agent that does the action- then. Animals have in their brains plenty of procedure codes for actions, truly beneficial actions, but completely anonymous- benefiting the species which is- a concept- a nobody. The huge advantage of the you-me-object -attribute system was the gate for fast technological and social progress. And, to prove it, we survived.**

 Like in this essay: it is what we humans do: “hopping domains”. The existence of named objects enables shifting perspectives, it is like advancing from a two-dimensional world to three-dimensional space, when you get it, you’ll use it all the time.

Another Note: It is difficult to imagine life without things. It is, I guess, like all you know would be the type of knowing how to ride a bike, how to play piano, how to make out with other humans?

Part 3. Conclusions.

Look at these three parallel events. In each, the world of the procedure code breaks and develops into a different reality or domain or metaphor.

1.Rare or just a single event:

Ca 50,000 years ago, a small band of homo sapiens acquired modularity of language, the concept of objects which expanded to a shared reality.   All other brands and branches of hominids that did not get this died out.

 2. Very common:

 It happens to every baby 6  to 12 months old since event #1. Babies develop “object permanence”.  She now knows that the toy that is hidden will not disappear forever, it is still there!

Pre-linguistic communication shifts to language and shared reality. Now we can see that the term “acquiring object permanence” is an oxymoron- in our shared reality objects are permanent by definition, until then, in the infant’s world, there were no objects separated from functions.

3. Recently very common,

Computer programmers and object-oriented user experience people perform similar tricks. The anonymous, pre-linguistic concepts, tasks, and problems defined in the form of the procedure code are transformed and transferred into shared by users pseudo-reality or (nicer) computer reality.

   All three events describe the now-famous “domain hop”: from procedure language, shared object-oriented, user’s reality emerges. ( thank you, Fiona and Eve). The original event was so rare that it looks like a miracle. Then every human baby learned to repeat that. And recently humanity learned how to perform it, with computers, “on-demand”. 

Content creates context. The object creates an agent – self. Understanding, translating, domain shifting, domain hopping is at the core of our human nature. It is how we survived.                                    

                                                  * * *

                                              * * *

*  Wait, and how about Japanese monkeys who learned how to wash potatoes? It was not an object, it was socially sharing the behavior, an algorithm.  But without the object independent from function there is no breakthrough, another skill, that’s it. 

** This broad description of the hypothetical event skips linguistic jargon of “qualia” and “memes”, and skips evolutionary mechanism’s details of spreading of beneficial traits.

Tom Voychehovski

Invention of things

So many puzzles, one key.

Here are some examples of puzzles:

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. 
  2. What happened before the Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?
  3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?
  4. Where is the center of the Universe?
  5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?
  6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?
  7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?
  8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?
  9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

The key: the event which occurred over a relatively short evolutionary time- probably several thousands of years, about 50,000 years ago in Africa or the Middle East. It involved one or at the most a couple of groups of ancient humans. 

     To continue the explanation or the description of the hypothesis- the key- we need to stop and insert an explanation. An explanation for the explanation? Yes, this sentence might need to be moved to the beginning of the essay, definitely can not be postponed. The explanation involves bootstrapping. ( A la Baron Munchausen) Explaining the working of the human brain with the human brain. Explaining the nature of reality using the language created by this reality. Explaining the complexity of the system using tools created within this system. It is why our explanation doesn’t explain what really happened, but how we continue to improve our explaining it. The best and the only thing we can do- is bootstrapping. It is obvious then that the nature of things reflects (or follows) the nature of our probing system. Mainly our brains but also other experimenting or probing machines. The results of probing depend and reflect the structure of the probe. 

       Another metaphor can be helpful: You look and you realize that the fur gloves you have worn for a long time are actually inside out. So, you flip it, put it on and it obviously works much better. The cold hand’s problem is solved. No repair, no surgery, no expense, just a fresh look- so simple, and the result is incredible.

     Now, back to the cavemen.  Well, the event I am going to describe carries similarities to several older events. We see these events as a cluster of extremely unlikely circumstances that occurred only once (an event can not be rarer than that). Like: Big Bang, creating solar/’planetary/earth system, creating life from no life systems, creating a nervous system to support nonrandom behavior, creating big brain social mammals in post dinosaurs niche. 

We also see our lives similarly- the nodes of unlike events and circumstances. I hypothesize that our brain creates in developing neural networks an important (nodal) but uncommon structure (few axons or dendrites) reflecting the structure of these outside- (niche) events. Or, if you reverse this concept, outside events reflect neural structures. ( the “glove hypothesis”- the glove corresponds to perceived reality, the brain is the hand inside the glove).

     Now, really back to cavemen. The unlikely cluster of events occurred circa 50,000 years ago. The horde which became our ancestors was migrating north under the pressure of bigger and stronger hominids. 

They had to outsmart them: by the level of cooperation and sophistication of communication. In migration, the children in the band were few and exceptionally precious. Many members took care of them, communication, talking back and forth was more intense, more social, and prolonged. Toddlers who started to talk were still being talked to and nolens volens listened to. Toddlers naturally: 1 ask questions, 2. ask for names of things. 

      Until then the communication had a lot of characteristics of animal communication.  When I read about the evolutionary origins of language, invariably linguists make it extremely complicated and jargon -saturated and missing evolutionary mechanisms. Communication is what the nervous system does, it was created to enable organisms to develop nonrandom behavior. So information from outside the system can benefit the system. This actually defines and creates “outside and inside”. The cells have their internal communication system, then when cells become “social” and create multicellular organisms- it opens new “outside”, and at last, when organisms become social- the concept of outside moves up to another level. The information which does not benefit the system- does not survive, the things it describes – do not exist. So the content of information is always the same: the descriptions of beneficial behaviors. You manage to remember it, you live, you manage to inherit it- your species niche expands. In archaic bacteria, it would be “move towards higher sugar concentration”, In bees- a dance directing other bees to flowers- in chimps- the details of organizing a rebellion against an alpha male. These descriptions might contain communications full of actions, places, objects, and animals but it is not language. They might contain stories, memories, emotions, and logical decisions but it is not language. Or, you may call it proto-language. Because of the crucial difference between that and human communication is really not linguistic. It’s ontological. These animals and early humans have the concept of reality described by Jacob Uexkull as Umwelt.  Their brains are full of beneficial behaviors. Nothing else. And beneficial behavior expands the species’ niche- usually but not always improving organisms’ survival and reproduction. It is impossible to manipulate this type of reality, the more complicated behaviors the more unwieldy it is to use them in different situations. The learning is painfully slow. Hominids hit the evolutionary wall, over the last 5 or 10 millions of years, they all died.

      Then, the miracle happened. The cluster of unlikely circumstances and events occurred. 

       The 15-month-old cave girl said: “daaaa’’ and pointed at the apple. ( She meant “ what is that, sis”?) It’s called “joined attention” . Her older sister answered: “an apple”. The older sister pulled the apple from the description of behavior- about how we find apples, which are good to eat, etc, etc. Then she stuck this apple into a brand new thing – reality. It was very small, beginning, just between the toddler and big sister, but they could manipulate it easier- “two apples, big apples, red apples” the endless uses of the THING. ( Notice that she mixed domains-or dimensions- the trick very often used with inventions, like a steam engine, gravity or double helix ) Paradoxically the reality which was starting to be socially shared opened the door for individuality. Budding modularity made recursive speech possible. In the Umwelt world, it was only me with my niche. 

      But now, or with a generation or two, with the invention of things, it was so easy, soon the whole family used more and more names, not as a part of the description of behaviors, but as building blocks of intergroup reality. Now the same story could be told in so many ways. How many fish do we need? Well, how many are coming for dinner?  You could talk about the quality of things and the quantity of things- the birth of abstraction and mathematics. And, after you talked about things- next big step- you could own them. And lack them.

     It probably took generations to populate the budding joint reality of the group with things. But modularity, later known as grammar, and recursiveness were the keys.

Now, an easy part, the puzzles.

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. It is true that many facts in the history of the cosmos, origins of Earth, and life on Earth are incredibly rare and improbable. The same can be said about evolutionary facts leading to modern humans. But if you examine the events leading to the creation of Saturn rings, or penguins, or squirrels, these are also incredibly rare and improbable. The measuring and exploring and assigning of probability occur within the same system. Chinese medicine does not see any brain- the probing and the result operate within the same system.

       2. What happened before Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?

Again, the time concept and Big Bang belong to the same system. The Universe began with Big Bang – they are all human-made concepts and if something was before we would not call it the beginning. Entropy occurs in time, and when there is time, there is non 0 Entropy. The time is defined by change, with change the order has to be imperfect -sooner or later.

       3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?

Aliens with gods and unicorns belong to human stories, as does the rest of the Universe. So, they do exist, inside our culture, like forest, fear, and Finland. And there is nothing outside, they are real inside this mind-boggling reality.

       4. Where is the center of the Universe?

The reality and the Universe were built during the evolutionary development of the nervous system. Every living organism has its center of reality inside the organism (well, how about ants or bees, do they share it??). Humans are an exception. They developed, starting about 50,000 years ago, shared reality. Their stories, which by and by become myths and then split into religions and science contained the notions of the center of the Universe, but ultimately these concepts and constructs are related to human intelligence. As long as we stay here on Earth, even if our science or religion points into a special part of heaven, I would assign the center to the person who points there, wouldn’t you?

       5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?

We invented things, language, and the Universe and it makes learning exponentially easier.

        6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?

The invention of things and abstract thinking ca. 50,000 years ago.

        7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?

Intragroup reality switch- from social and emotional sharing to language sharing to reality sharing to language modularity.

       8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?

The events described above, it is what made us modern humans and now it can kill us.

       9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

Use an understanding of the evolutionary past to expand our niche by building a society based on experiential happiness. If we continue to try to be happy with material things we’ll run out of them and die out ( see details in the previous posts- esp. “niche crisis II”).

   

       

We are in the center of the Universe

 

         

          I think we, humans and other beings on Earth, are in the center of the Universe. We are in the center of our Universe and this is the only Universe that exists. It is important to ponder this as if it is really so, it brings a lot of the responsibility to us, humans, as the squirrels and dolphins , as pretty and smart they are, they won’t help much.

As a philosopher, I think that the solution for the present pickle will come from the maturing of the human mind rather than from more successes in the technology. As would Einstein put it -“no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

     An idea that we are in the center of the Universe seems like the fine place to start from! The argument usually involves astronomy and physics . The theologians, after the setbacks handed by Copernicus, Darwin and raging capitalism are trying to side with science to regain some respectability. They are conspicuously absent from the fry.

       But I am a pediatrician, for Goodness Sake!

Well, for the last 50 years I was playing with babies. I was watching them, talked to them and studied their development. I was studied the similarities and the differences in their thinking and feeling as compared to primates and other simpler animals. And the idea of us being the center of the Universe came straight from the evolutionary neuroscience and developmental pediatrics.

Every behavior that benefits an organism’s evolution has to be communicated and encoded.  The speed of the evolution is uneven. The traits/ behaviors which relay on body changes are slow, but the ones relaying on communication are fast.  The more complex, the  smarter you get, the faster  you get even smarter. Your brain is  better, your society is more complex, you communicate faster.  Your brain, your synapses evolving on the neck-break speed starting to get shortcuts. When you start communicating with shortcuts, these are words. So you start to relay  on them, there is more and more to teach an infant, which become smarter and smarter.  Soon they become speakers, for these exchanges you need  grammar and then language. So these communications which started with the simple descriptions of a beneficial behavior (swim towards warmth) now name actions, feelings, reasons and most amazing – THINGS. We teach infants these words and they see them as independant of communication , independent from language.

      Every animal’s brain evolved to fine tune this animal’s behavior in given environment. To perceive, to see, to understand, to adapt, this for an animal is the same thing. It is what an animal does, without splitting it into categories. The animal’s world  (Nagel’s “What it is like to be a bat” will not tell you much…) is very different that mine and yours. It is not subjective and it is not objective- there is no self to make this distinction. It is obviously dependent on the observer (the animal itself), made by the animal’s peculiar, primitive perception and memory, but it is out there. Birds’ migration shows that they can coordinate complex actions, but the sharing is automatic, not via intentional communications. So, the animal’s world is outside, around the each animal, built mostly over the eons of the evolutionary time, with just a little of it built during the life of the animal- to allow for diversity beneficial for the species survival, the world of behaviors. Even if the evolution created homo sapiens with the vastly improved brain, the communications ability, and thinking skills, each of us still builds his or hers personal world, with the Universe getting bigger and bigger around us. So, again, an young infant, with minimal activity of cortex, the human baby has the world out there, instinctual and emotional. But, unlike the animals, human infant rapidly activates upper limbic centers and prefrontal cortexes. The rich social communications add to the world of behaviors two new worlds: the world of language and the world of things. The world of behaviors enables the world of language, the world of language enables the world of things, but there is a huge difference between the first and the last two of them. The world of behaviors (shared with the animals) surrounds each baby, (each animal ) making, her own Universe (Umwelt) but the worlds of language and things are shared with other human beings, they feel like floating outside and independent of us! This transition happens around 6 to 9 month of age in infants, this make them cranky and confused, they can’t sleep, suddenly clinging to mom. Psychologists call this the development of the object permanence, I call it losing of the object impermanence, or even better – entering from My Universe into the strange Universe which is Nobody’s- it is just there.

 

     Now imagine 7 billion personal worlds all mingled, shared, interconnected. Then add 14 billions of the mom’s and dad’s worlds which were the base of the each of our personal worlds, add all the ancestors’ worlds, further and further back in time.  All sentient beings contributed to the process of building subsequent generations of personal worlds.

  Space, time and other dimensions are products of this complex masterpiece. The main function of the evolving animal’s nervous system is to create understanding, in other words -the cognition (the way for control). And this works through categorizing, naming, creating semantic shortcuts, the metaphors.

According to the Gaia hypothesis, kind of similar to my philosophy, the interconnected sentient beings create super intelligence, like interconnected neurons and dendrites, create the conscious brain. To me, these connections  between humans are mostly related to ancestors via genes and culture via instincts and the core of human nature. These connections make possible for each of us to become conscious and create a meaningful world.

During the last 80 years, science and philosophy are grappling with the explanation of the observed vs observer dilemma. From Bohr and Einstein to Maturana and Varela and Thompson , the concept of observer-built reality is gaining ground. See also Archibald John Wheeler’s Participatory Universe and Anthropic principle debates.

And, of course, about 100 000 years ago, the culture and the technology for the practical reasons developed “the agreement universe” so we could hunt the mastodon or build the bridge or a spaceship. The other names for this are “nobody’s universe” or “reality”.

 

My world which is interconnected with 7 billions of “you’s” and it was built by our ancestors and the ancestors of ancestors down to the beginning of life..

You are in the exactly same situation, these are all assets we have, and if we are not extremely careful, we are going to blow them out in the nuclear holocaust. Or starve slowly, take your pick.

After the last human dies, a computer in some deep bunker will still continue to churn out data revealing new “discovery” based on Cosmic Microwave Background measurements.

 But it will be no CMB, this term will become completely meaningless. And it will not matter whether the report is in English, Arabic or Chinese. If there is nobody to read it, there is no CMB, period.

Really, see- “micro” means nothing, “wave” means nothing, “back” means nothing – there is no front so can not be back, there is no “ground” and no “cosmic”.

OK, you say “ let’s continue this story, and in a million years, the aliens discover this planet and this computer printout”… Not so fast: you can not discover anything if there is no concept of “discovery”. There are no years if there is no spring and winter, and if nobody is born and dies , the time is meaningless and useless. Without the human, there is even no story.

Yes. We are the center of the Universe.

    We are the only observers of the world. Naturally the world is fine tuned for humans (the Anthropic Problem) if they invented the measurements accordingly. And while animals’ world of behaviors occurs in time and space, only the humans with their worlds of language and things named them and are aware of them. We also invented the science that tells us, that we live as a tiny, insignificant specs, on the small planet, on the periphery of the remote galaxy, with the huge, cold, unknown cosmos around us. Some scientists are trying to cheers us up, like Primack and Abrams in “The view from the center of the Universe” and Tom Yulsman in “Origins”. They made it worse, their wishy -washy argument and wishful thinking goes from reassurance that our size is just right (sic!) to the hope that future science will alleviate our wretchedness to stating that the Universe does not have the center, therefore we can not be off it.

But while the scientists still ( and will forever ) argue, this should not make us feel like the insignificant specs, excused to be helpless and small, waiting for the creator to help us, please!

We are at the center of human experience, as we are building personal and interconnected worlds, the Universe consists of. We are responsible for it and every of us 7 billion, matters.

 

My 2018 Humanist Manifesto

My 2018  Humanist Manifesto

 

There is confusion and no consensus regarding who we are.

We are good people concerned with dire problem of humanity and trusting human nature being up to handle them.

We are responsible for this planet and to save it we have to stop fighting and put all our minds and hearts into the survival of our species and our environment.

The old “liberty, equality and fraternity” will lead to cooperation and democratic societies. The diversity is the base of our strength, not a reason to fight. These include nationalities ,religions, ethnic minorities, life styles, sexes, skin colors, education, wealth and worldviews.

We humanists explore human’s three major strengths – our hope against terrible odds of societal regression and extinction .

1. We have the ability to communicate, share our knowledge, love, empathy, and suffering.

2. We use the wisdom and achievements of the past, the mythology and science, to handle the problems of the present.(homo historicus)

3. We are curious, imaginative and intelligent with the passion for the success and happiness

We trust wisdom of religions but we distrust the magic part of religions.

We trust technology of science but we distrust materialistic philosophy of many scientists.

We trust evolution and progress but we distrust modern culture of material greed and violence.

We believe that all these principles are consistent with evolutionary built human nature, its intellectual, emotional and social characteristics.

We cherish beauty, art, music, humor and critical thinking – teaching them to our children is our main goal.

We believe in transcendent and sacred:

  1. The Mother and the Child ( the life, the birth)- our Christmas or Winter Solstice Holiday.
  2. The Love for the family, the friendship and the happiness- our Thanksgiving Holidays
  3. The ancestors and the peaceful death (completion)- our All Saints Day
  4. Human suffering and life -our Easter or Spring Holidays.
  5. The Love for Nature and animals – our vegetarian Harvest Holidays.
  6. The love for democracy, equality and societal transcendent bond- our Independence Holiday

These are the examples coming from the european, christian traditions, and while for muslim, jewish, african and asian people the names and dates will change – the sacred will remain.

If you too hold these part of human culture sacred, if you share these values -you are a humanist.

Notes and explanation from an evolutionary humanist.

You may replace the term “sacred” with the “important” but then the question arises “how important”. I like the term sacred because it emphasize the fact that we are idealists and we not afraid of concept and values that we can not fully understand or explain. These values are from the evolutionary perspective older than the concepts of personalised deity as animal, the sun, the omnipotent person. The confirmation of that sequence comes from anthropology, mythology, eastern philosophies and the interfaith movements.

How much are we ready to fight and sacrifice for these values? It differs from person to person but we should  never be violent or should the conflict dehumanise the opponent.

We also cringe in front of the concepts of “savior”, “creator” and “fatherland” as they, in our opinion, decrease the chances for saving our species and to create a peaceful and happy world.

     We observe this world and as observers it feels that we are the most complex system, but any other observer, like a whale or a squirrel would have the same feeling (without language and self reflection). On the other hand the concept of complexity is pure human invention, so even without language this comparison doesn’t make sense.( the same with the concepts of intelligence, magnificence, power or wisdom).

     The concept of intelligence in our understanding is related to the complexity of logical networks -biological or artificial. The artificial intelligence is still the human intelligence, no matter how much self learning it can accomplish unless we’d learn how to teach robots of the depth of our evolutionary past or the subconsciousness. The non-human intelligence to develop would have to repeat exactly eons of earth environment changes, the niches twists and turns and consequently repeat the exact  our pattern of the evolution which seems impossible. These concepts are species specific, Umwelt -specific. It is why breeding is so rare across the species. And in traditional human societies the cousins are the best mates , “the closest to share my world”.

I think that this concept of humanism works the best with the evolutionary theory and the theory of the evolutionary reality.

 

My worldview

As I am embarking on the task of teaching how to write your worldview, I thought I need to publish my own. The answers to the unanswerable questions are short, like at the Philozophy.com. In that way they can serve as a brief note to yourself, a reminder. It is also easier to compare them with others and to discuss them.  Here you are:

 

1.How did the Universe begin?

 

My Universe began with my conception. As I am learning from others and my experiences, my world shifts, gets bigger and more complex.  Where my understanding ends, on that edge, reversing the arrow of time, there and then the Universe begins

 

  1. What is the Universe made of?

 

My Universe is built from my birth with my instincts, my experiences and the experiences of other people I learned from. It is also solid and real. Maybe there is a Nobody’s Universe, independent of our personal worlds, but I doubt it.

 

  1. What is the origin of good?

 

Eusocial hominids, using mirror neurons, created and genetically encoded altruism and friendship. Surviving evolved into the drive to cooperate and to understand. The wisdom -understanding- translates socially into good, true and beautiful

 

4.What is the origin of evil?

 

Survival instincts and natural selection. We supposed to grow up and transform fear and greed of the caveman into the understanding and wisdom. I guess, we need to work harder on that. Tempus fugit.

 

  1. Is there free will?

 

As I have built my world, I am responsible for it and for my actions, even if sometimes I don’t know what I am doing. I feel that I have many freedoms, but in the same time I realize that I am a part of the cosmic interdependent web of causality.

 

  1. What is the nature of the mind?

 

The Mind is a cluster of functions of the brain. Thinking and feeling create my experience while consciousness, memory, attention make possible of me being aware of the performing these very functions. It is a concept, like a joy or pain.

 

  1. How do you find happiness?

 

With effort and intention of love, curiosity and gratitude, the results exceed expectations. It is transient, subjective and trainable. Practice to become happiable- ready for happiness.

 

  1. How do you find truth?

 

Truth is relative and mythic. It is what has been working for long time and for many people as a human nature and it is civilization dependent. So, I am trying to find wise books and wise friends to trust and then to ask.

 

  1. What is the meaning of life?

 

Being curious, doing good and having fun. It is how I am trying to do projects bigger than me. Working with people makes it meaningful and significant and beautiful.

 

  1. What is the role of evolution?

 

The evolution is probably the most important algorithm human invented to understand the world. It tries to explain how simple organisms evolved in Time and how the level of entropy and complexity can be so uneven across all dimensions.

 

  1. What happens after death?

 

I will live in others. If one does good for the reward after death, one will not be rewarded, if one does good to avoid punishment, that is one’s punishment. The judgement? It occurs inside our heads. Immortality? Sure, what you sow, you reap.

 

  1. Who or What is God?

 

The animal and then human intelligences were built through the process of the evolution. It is an awesome system, which we are trying to understand, often heroic and Divine. Gods are the parts of human mythology, therefore a part of human nature.

 

  1. What is going to happen to humankind?

 

Miraculously we will understand our unity, stop fighting, stop overpopulating, stop wasting resources. We will see our relatedness as Love and Friendship between us. Only then we will build a better world. A piece of cake but we need to hurry.

 

  1. What Question is missing?

 

What is the human nature?

Subjective, objective – which is which?

I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what?  Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure?  Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??

The brain of mammals, our ancestors, is huge, compared with other animals, and is mostly consisting of neurons handling sensory perceptions and the interpretation of the perceptions in the view of survival/ adaptation benefits.  Attached to this behemoth are the ganglia ( we call them “old brain” but for the mammal, they are actually new), the neural centers responsible for the emotions. The animal “tries” to figure out constantly what is going on and if so, what to do. When a lion attacks, the sensory data combine with behavior menu and emotional impulses like fear and hunger.  We associate these actions, like emotions or feelings with the events going on inside us, in the head, in the chest, or heart, but with the animals, they are obviously ” out there”, as a part of the animal’s environment.

So, animal brain creates real world  with the brain which works on instincts and emotions? This does not make any sense. How that type of the brain can create solid objects, trees, antelopes etc.  Also, to confuse things even more, we think about the emotions and feelings as subjective, but subjective is related to reflective thinking and the robust self, while the animals just do not have the necessary brain structures (or minimal).

It looks like the split between subjective and objective is the part of the development of the human mind, and therefore is artificial. What’s worse that the new, invented part is an objective part.

Well, let’s put some order into this mess, an upside down order that is. When we build, as infants, our world around us we do not develop the “permanence of the objects”. We develop the world of impermanence. It is the world which we call the subjectivity, the one which changes, it resides in our “mind” or even “heart”, it is related to the development of self and reflective thinking. The brain we use to develop this new human quality is the newest part of the brain- prefrontal areas, verbal areas, the empathic brain. Animals do not have it, or have very little of it.

On the other hand, young human infant’s brain is like animal’s:  literal, permanent and real. It has no good feel for time- this comes much later. Her world occurs outside, feels objective and real and its complexity depends on the complexity of the animal (or the age- level of the development of the infant.) For the low complexity organisms even if feels real- the only world they have- it is very different than our reality.

The concept of dimensions, for example, develops one by one ( a simple bacteria detecting ony concentration of the chemical, i.e. distance, i.e. one dimension, E.coli can orient itself and has buding of tri-dimensional sensory). These realities, “Umwelts” (Uexküll) consist of gradually increasing number of elements and interactions and are built for survival, that is the organism’s niche. ( the idea that the world and the niche is the same deserves separate attention, no?- not I and thou but I and my niche!)

It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. As their ability to socialize and communicate increased they built something more sophisticated than bee’s beehive: the whole virtual shared world, our objectivity. How far back this construct reaches?  It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.

Our objective world is shared with the member of the species. Our sharing is vastly superior than animal’s world because of social connections via language and culture. Animals sharing is limited to social adaptive traits. So the lion and antelope do not see the same tree, even two antelopes see only as much of a “tree” as evolutionary minimally necessary.

This, when you think about it, puts all reality concepts upside-down and the consequences are mindblowing.

Recommended cycle of study

   Making  of the modern sage.

   

   Recommended cycle of study:

                                       SELF

                           ->                          ->

          WORLDVIEW                                  COMPLEXITY

           ->                                                                  ->

INDIVIDUALITY                                                           EVOLUTION

     <-                                                                                 ->

HUMANISM                                                           EVOLUTION OF NERVOUS SYSTEM

           <-                                                                   <-

          HUMAN NATURE     <-       SOCIAL ANIMALS

 

The transition from studying self (like, growing up) to the concept of complexity is the most difficult and revolutionary.

It is like a deep, narrow, rocky canyon filled with the cacti of self doubt. And at the bottom run wild rivers of cosmology, neuroscience, epistemology and ontology.

Some trying to hang the bridge of second order cybernetics, some-recently- bring predictive coding -bloody sheets of phenomenology and neo-Kantian tied end to end.

I am offering my own bridge : the theory of evolutionary reality.

But, when you get to complexity- further steps roll smoothly and naturally.

You can actually stick with studying complexity and treat all the step as the examples of  increasing complexity.

Everybody writes about the human nature but it remains a nebulous subject ( like: who? me??)

You do not need individuality to have a worldview, everybody has one or more, but I mean, working on the explicit worldview.

“Accidentally” – no, not accidentally at all, the level of explicitness of communication follows the same circle of progression.

Some steps will be your favorites, some – slippery and yucky like pickled okra, but if you miss one step you inevitably will get stuck, the chi of wisdom needs to flow, not spurt like a broken fossett.

Of course when you get back to “self” – good luck- we need to start again .

Lunch with Derrida ( Human Nature Grilled)

It seems that philosophy has been obsessed with human nature since the beginning of time. And, as times and philosophy change, so does the concept of human nature.
From Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) “Nichomachean Ethics” to Hume’s “A Treatise of Human Nature” (1738) human nature means just the way we understand and know the World, which includes all- ontology, axiology, praxeology, and epistemology. For Darwin (The Descent of Man- 1871) human nature is mostly about how we differ from the monkey, and how we came to have common ancestors. By the way, it looks that, the humanity is getting over this offensive detail of our nature. For E.O.Wilson ( On Human Nature-1971) it is about humans with their qualities to form the pinnacle of the evolutionary and the sociobiological process. For Chomsky, human nature represents an innate neurobiological structure responsible for the development of language. For me, human nature is all the above, but most importantly I see a human being as the evolutionary marvel, able to reflect on him- or herself, and to consciously build a personal world around and with the free will – own life.
This concept was discussed in the domains of biology, history, evolution, theology, and sociology and now the postmodernists want to take it away from us? Derrida in “Differance” denies the importance of humans interest in their history or biology. Absurdly, he preaches the absolute supremacy of text which, he thinks, means everything- but as there is no meaning- so ultimately- it means nothing. He says: “Differance is neither a word nor a concept. In it , however, we shall see the juncture-rather than summation-of what has been most decisively inscribed in the thought of what is conveniently call our “epoch”: the difference of forces in Nietzsche, Saussure’s principle of semiological difference, etc, etc”. (p130, I could not find a better quote). Of course, postmodernists question human nature but also the subject, truth, and moral standards. It is difficult to argue if the person you want to argue with, questions the argument itself, the process of arguing and the existence of the opponent.
Michel Foucault as the social historian and phenomenologist is less radical:
“It was not by studying human nature that linguists discovered the laws of consonant mutation, or Freud the principles of the analysis of dreams, or cultural anthropologists the structure of myths. In the history of knowledge, the notion of human nature seems to me mainly to have played the role of an epistemological indicator to designate certain types of discourse in relation to or in opposition to theology or biology or history. I would find it difficult to see in this a scientific concept.” (1971 debate, excerpts). And, actually, I agree with him about human nature being “an intellectual tool” rather than a biological or moral entity. During their famous debate, Noam Chomsky tried to defend the notion of human nature and pointed to the quality of creativity as the basic, innate human faculty responsible for the creation of the language, which made the culture and civilization possible.
For Foucault the forces behind human civilization are not personal, he sees discoveries and the changes as the inevitable result of societal progress. According to him human nature is just a “shopping list of science.”; humans can not not create anything, until the mechanism of the economy, politics, and psychological development of masses made it possible.
In my opinion, we should keep exploring the concept of human nature. With the progress in global education, improved critical thinking, people have become more and more individualistic, making their own decisions. The awareness of our cultural and sociobiological heritage, of our qualities and capacities for good and evil is very important in this age of the planetary crisis.
Human nature might be not a real thing, but as with the crisis in religious dogmas we are searching for origins of good, it would be useful to recognize the common origins of our character and values, pan-human brotherhood. And postmodernism is of not much of help, may be only by giving us the list of values one can question and telling us what humanity is not.

For myself, I would like to know that I can figure out my place in the world and my plan for action, conscious, deliberate and passionate action. This will be my human nature. And I wish that the people around me would do the same.
Or, would they rather go to lunch with Derrida???