on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for the ‘What will happen to the mankind’ Category

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”).

   

       

Same horde of cavemen

 Listen, friends,

I do not want to spoil your afternoon but if we don’t do something dramatic soon, our grandchildren will live in misery and many of them will die. We have 40 years or so to do it.

The ecological catastrophe is like a Monster with 100 heads and we are not even cutting these heads. We are nibbling on the tail and this is no good. 

I believe there is the chink in the Monster’s armor. A vulnerable place awaiting the arrow of the hero. 

         The trick is simple. We are almost 8 billion strong hurtling towards a disaster, but each of us is the same human. Same genes, instincts, pleasures, and pains. Same brain structures, same neurotransmitters, and hormones. Just 50, 000 years ago we were an almost extinct horde of cavemen. And now we KNOW THIS, we SEE THAT. we can imagine and understand that the proper action can save us again. It is just the same horde (or community)- so what if it looks like 8 billion strong mad crowds that are high on power, violent, reckless, and…stupid. The solution is inside each of us. Each of us wants to be happy. No exceptions. The way we try to get this happiness has been changing with cultures and civilizations but it seems that until quite recently it was stable, and lo and behold, safe for the planet. We were happy, embarrassingly, in the similar way the animals are, just a little bit fancier. It was all about a good experience- satiety, relationships, safety, awe, beauty, and art. Only just about 20 or 40 thousand years ago we slowly developed “the kingdom of things”. We dig out coal and oil and ore, we got energy, technology, and gadgets. Things are seemingly irresistible, they please all senses, they are reliable( your car will be there and ready tomorrow – your woman might not be)- easy, easy, so easy to get happy and powerful and safe, especially after all these thousands of years of fear, uncertainty, relying for happiness on OTHERS! Oh, the misery of relying on these tiny, fleeting moments of understanding, awe, and fun. 

         But we can make this pivot, we can make this second Renaissance smarter, more robust, the experiences with technology can be more “things-like”.

There is no other way anyway. 

And if we do it later when the resources are gone, we are overcrowded and fearful, then this “old happiness” practiced with the blade on our throats might look more like a caricature of the good stuff.

I think we need to create a broad coalition across professions, nations, and many other “huge” differences, and smarter people than me need to lead and design the details and actions.

I welcome brainstorming on my blog ecohumanistlab.com  and I will post more practical elements. of how to call it- a dream? plan? movement?  I think that the parenting of infants and toddlers would be easiest to address.

Niche crisis, Part 2, ” Materialists and Idealists”

 

Part 2

Materialists and Idealists

 

In the first part of this essay, I made some bold hypotheses and ended up with outrageous promises.

I will repeat then: The niche crisis is in itself not a problem, it is just an inevitable result. Therefore to handle it we have to find the cause. I think that the cause, broadly speaking, is the domination of things of our civilization. (The pollution-related to cars, trucks, and roads is not the problem, it’s the result, the problem is that we LOVE to drive, LOVE the power and feeling related to moving a big machine fast. The problem is not outside the culture but inside the culture) It started, I think, and I will talk about it later, from peculiar language development and now it is literally killing us. We can correct this, but in order to do that we need to start with the conversation, maybe even create a new language, a new set of metaphors and mythology. This is part 2. 

Part 3 will start the conversation about the promises of the new beautiful world.

I thought that this domination of things had to do with the eternal distinction between materialists and idealists. 

I checked a few philosophy texts, some psychology sources, and of course: Google. It all left me befuddled. Nothing fitted the bill. 

  1. The philosophy was as always useless; neither early materialists like Democritus and Thales, or late like Marx and Engels were really materialistic, nor idealists like Berkeley or Hegel had anything to do with the niche. The primordial sin of our civilization must be somewhere else. 
  2. If it was a sin, maybe the religions would do the trick? Oh, I don’t mean the trick they do with humanity for the last 50 000 years. I mean the elusive distinction of believers vs nonbelievers – often understood as idealists vs materialists. But, no, all of them, fundamentalists, mystics, atheists, humanists, all of them want to be good and all are greedy and all want their kids to be successful.
  3. Big psychology- Myer-Briggs tests and others- and folk psychology tell me: materialists are bad (that’s for sure) and unhappy.

-they give babies coca-cola instead of milk.

-they murder to steal money or a nice jacket or even sneakers.

-their science is wrong: Newtonian, solid brick and mortar, not relativity and “observer’s Universe”.

– they are responsible for technology, corporations, gadgets, and consumerism.

-among the believers, the materialists are the worst: young Earth, literal interpretation of scriptures,  seeing beliefs as real and factual, sacred rights, holy wars, and xenophobia.

So, idealists must be good: they live frugally, don’t eat meat, like theater and poetry, hiking, nature, meditation, praying, and dancing.

 

Mahatma Gandhi, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Oprah and Albert Schweizer, etc, etc. We need to be like them, but we can’t.  Why? All of these famous idealists were driven, obsessed by humongous overwhelming ideas, usually not very happy, crazy overachievers, rather miserable “I will show them” people. 

We are all good normal people and we cannot be like them, well, do we actually want our children to be like them?

The research shows that typical materialists and famous rich materialists were not so happy and if they were happy it was the idealist part of them which did it.  Like philanthropy of Rockefeller and Gates. And making material achievements a priority in life actually make self-expression and good relationships more difficult. It looks that it is not switching from materialist to idealist that is necessary- it would be impossible anyway.

So, we want our children (and ourselves) to be happy first. Then we have to find a way to be happy without hurting the planet.

These distinctions require thinking. Thinking and discussions and role-modeling. What is necessary and doable is noticing how indoctrinated we are by generations of automatic concepts of success, the meaning of life, and happiness. Things: a well-paying job, a good house, a fast car, and a pretty woman. It is a very one-sided picture of the American Dream, which is actually a dream of most of the people in the world.

If we explain to people that this dream is untenable, that the planet can not support it, that we have to give it up, to sacrifice our dream for the planet, and for others …. We’ll go nowhere. Tell the leaders, CEOs, generals, and clergy to relinquish the power to save the planet… we’ll go nowhere. Tell economist that capitalism needs to pivot and production of things and energy has to shrink and …we’ll go nowhere. 

What can we do? Dealing with things is so easy, the numbers are on their side.

Dealing with ideas, relationships, Unknown, feelings, even art, and literature – all require and benefit from critical thinking, shifting dimensions, using imagination ( some people talk about transformational education). Dealing with things do not… Things are: cheaper or more expensive, hotter or cooler, slower or faster – so easy to deal with, so inviting for the categories, divisions and … ownership. And it is literally how the hell broke loose.

And how did we get like that?  The evolution of the nervous systems and ethology will help here. Animals are not materialists, their brains are full of behaviors ( in the notebook of the observer, like Jane Goodall watching her chimpanzees), for them (say, chimpanzees) they are the experiences. The trick is to avoid bad experiences like pain, hunger, or fear and maximize good experiences- satiation, control, safety even belonging. Not much different than early humans. Hominids, also hunter-gatherers, lived in more or less egalitarian societies, where the leader, usually male, possessed very little, except for mates. 

     In our search for the origins of this worldview dysfunction or of materialism, I’d like to point to the two moments that were pivotal.  50 to 10 thousand years ago communication became a language. Animals and hominid’s “language” followed their world of experiences. It described behaviors (experiences), even sometimes complex ones like bees dance, crows teaching their children about bad people and butterflies astral navigation, but they were still behaviors. And then, at the toddler stage of our civilization, something happened to humans. And to humans only: see the interesting hypothesis of Dr.Hrdy (among others). I said “toddler” because, as a pediatrician, I observed the same magic hundreds and hundreds of times in the office and you might have seen it in your home. A 15-month-old human infant is a pretty complex being. She can talk a little, but she understands a lot, she knows her surroundings, she even mastered the skill called “object permanence”. She knows pretty much how the world around works, what is anger and fear and sadness, hunger, and the bliss of cuddling with mom. But, your dog or even a crow in your yard can do all of these. And then, out of blue, your child will point to the pineapple on the table: “What’s that, Daddy?”

And an abyss opened, a huge difference between humanity and all known sentient and artificial beings. Only humans can ask for the name of an object not related to any function or behavior.

 

    What was first, naming objects or materialistic society? I don’t know, but what is important is that it happened recently, so materialism is not in our genes ( neither are things, really, and their objectivity is perfectly questionable!) 

It is also possible that the” invention of things “ timing is not mere coincidence. Because it is the time ( 50 to 20 000 years ago, when we almost got extinct- about 10 thousand people left, or less!) when our egalitarian society could have changed. Maybe it was the pressure of a shrinking niche related to climate change, after the Toba volcano eruption and ice age. We behaved (we actually were) like cornered animals, we tried to survive against each other. With the rule of violence, fear, and anxiety our worldviews changed. We tried to get happy with things, so we learned to get high on power, violence, and control.  Interestingly, more or less at the same time we developed societies with haves and have nots, (Mesopotamia, Egypt, China), and having was better, and the things to have to be on the top were, well, things.

Our primordial “personality” stays dormant, waiting to be awakened… We need another renaissance chapter in our civilization. With our technology and advances in knowledge of the human mind, we can make a better renaissance than the original Italian One. A mixture of materialism, idealism, humanism, and all that is needed to take care of this planet. We can do it, but it will take the new conversation on being authentic, working on one’s personal unique worldview and on creating unique, personal mythology. James P. Carse in the “The religious case against belief” argues for this conversation, for questioning. It is what the real religious people (read: happy, authentic, mature) do – question belief, use the paradigm and language of their religion just for one, but all-important purpose – to question the world, to embrace the Mystery. To find the meaning, the worldview, the happiness. Well, not to find, to journey on finding it.

It is going to be a renaissance – the rebirth of the type of mind which made us human. We have it inside: the excitement and awe of the Unknown, the curiosity, joy, and imagination. Loving, playing, arguing, making fun and derision, showing others, and ourselves’ foolishness.  We’ll thrive on experiences instead of gadgets- we’ll treat them as assets, cherish them, and make them richer and richer as our complexity and intelligence grow.

This optimistic story does not need to be true. It would be reassuring and promising.  And I am asking for so little. Just start talking, open your mind, and imagine. Well, we are not completely off the hook- this new plan includes role-modeling, right? Somebody has to change first or at least start changing.  This conversation, this work will lead to a new curriculum, more on that unknown black hole in Part 3.

Open letter to all humanists.

This is an open letter to all humanists and this is a great majority of all humans. Most of them do not realize that they are humanists. I want to bring this fact to the open : the King is Naked! The term and the meaning of humanism has been hijacked. Most of us are rational, educated and concerned with human problems( including personal, family and tribe problems). But many of us are still working on the childhood fears of the unknown. We think that if we stick to material, scientific or scriptural, “factual” Universe – we will be safe and if we manage to suppress and deny the unknown- we would win.

It is why in my town of Chattanooga, Tennessee,  a group of 20 or 30 ex-baptists or ex-catholics (like me) huddle every month for the Humanist Assembly meeting. It is how we try to handle the fear of the unknown. Next door in hundreds of churches, few synagogues and mosques hundreds of thousands faithfuls respond to this group by desperate or happy clinging to the religious way to handle the unknown.

The more we resist, the more they persist. But we are the species created by evolution! Like in every species, handling unknown is an essential part of survival. Every stupid animal knows it. Cavemen knew it, medieval men knew it-see all these cathedrals- the renaissance men knew it- read Shakespeare!  The imagination, the art, the poetry and the divine- they are all part of the unknown and of the beautiful and awesome human nature, human myth. Also the competition, arrogance, naivety and cruelty – you pick, literally.

The origin of species was described 250 years ago, but it is not in our bones yet, not in our deep, deep worldview.

Get it! Celebrate the unity of man, his creativity and achievements. Not a second too early. Stop fighting! Instead, try to understand and work together on our fears, on the fears of each of us. The ship is sinking (remember The Tempest?), we are the last hominids remaining. Our ancestors survived  several threats of extinction and almost extinction. The scientism like religions make us tiny, helpless, divided and..wrong. The evolutionary thinking shows clearly how over millions of years we created and named all we can see. We can, this time not by luck, but by reason, duck, sneak out and survive again.

Humanists of the world unite!

 

 

 

Niche crisis

Niche crisis (this essay has new, expanded version as Niche crisis II)

 

This species is on the brink of extinction. Each species survival relays on the quality of its niche. The resilience of the species depends on ability to adapt to environmental changes. The organisms, members of a species, use energy to build size of the niche , diversity and complexity. 

 Human’s niche is shrinking , diversity is dwindling and the complexity is built to drive these processes  instead of protecting niche and diversity. Quality of life is rapidly decreasing: people are frightened, worried, angry, impoverished physically, emotionally and intellectually.

  This happened before to many other species and they were extinct, including all six species of earlier humans.

  But only our species can observe this happening. 

Can we use this unique fact to  reverse the trend?

 

I will never know, my children might, my grandchildren will know for sure.

 

To survive we need stop fighting- we need to conquer out tribalism, nationalism and religious divides.

 

To survive we need recognise our unity as a species, as a group of fellow travellers on the same leaking boat, develop friendships, admiration to each other and learn how to cooperate.

 

To survive we have to quit being materialistic, learn ourselves   and teach our children from the crib to cherish and be happy with experiences not with things, 

 

To survive we need to shrink our world population and our economies, develop new education system with emphasis on humanities, art, music , theater and philosophy.

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?

Big Question #13: What is going to happen to the mankind?

“You are a child of the Universe, no less than the tree and stars: you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear for you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should ” Desiderata.

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • What is going to happen to your grand-grandchildren?
  • Where are we going? What is your prediction or model of the future?
  • Imagine the year 2050.
  • Can we save ourselves?
  • Can somebody else save us?  How?

It is only recently that we talk about the future constantly. Also, your future can be easily limited to your family life, but if you think about the future of your grandchildren you automatically relate it to the whole mankind… The modern notion of things changing and even newer of “trending”, combined with the idea that we can influence the future made this question really an everyday topic. Global markets, geopolitical trends, global warming- from the esoteric become the cafeteria’s daily…For example the idea of the “lawn 2050 competition”-  how will our grandchildren live and what will they like, what criteria would they list? will they be rather techie/nerdy or social/new-agey or paleo/survival types?

How to work on the answer to the Question #13

I am somewhat fixated on the year 2050. Not so close, not too far, just right… to be concerned and scared. Our grandchildren will be grown ups. If nothing happens, the life on Earth will be rather difficult. If something happens I think it can be divided into three categories: 1 Incredible new technology, 2. Some kind of Armageddon- the game changer. 3. The massive change in our worldview, the change from within.

An example by Kaukab Naseer: ” Immediate future will be androids, evolving into one connected mind, which will be the God of distant future creating and guiding life forms.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Working on this question broadens your perspective, gives you different look on the daily nuisances. For those excitedly self-centered it helps to look around and see others.

Homo historicus, or the musings on the humanists’ agenda

Exploring the human nature from the evolutionary perspective.

This is the core, this is who we are. These are the biological restraints one can not escape.The human nature is the topic of many books by the famous scientists and philosophers: Darwin, E.O.Wilson, Teilhard de Chardin, Jacob Bronowski to name a few. Some of these books like “ The Tangled Wing” or “Incomplete Nature” declare by their titles the mixed feelings we humans have about our nature, but our past and the future is the source of our values, our intelligence, and our concerns. Deep understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms is the base of our worldviews.

Recognizing the values of the ancestors and teachers

This the origin, this is where we come from. Exploring the human nature leads obviously to great respect and love to our parents,( we share the genetic and epigenetic traits) our ancestors and teachers. Equally important is the relationship with our children and our students. As we live our lives, we learn, we figure things out, we teach and we show by the example.

Acknowledging being the most complex, curious, empathic and individualistic species on Earth  ( I believe: in the Universe).

During the last one 100 000 years, our species went on hyperdrive: The brain complexity and social complexity went into the positive feedback loop. This resulted in the characteristics of the species which we see and categorize now as curiosity, empathy, and competition/cooperation traits. Our major tool is the communication skills which grew exponentially and parallel to the social and the brain development. The ability to share our personal worlds allowed for the creation of technology, the consciousness, and the critical thinking.

Belief in free will and personal growth

The evolution teaches us that we build our world since birth until our death. The same is with animals, they try to survive, try to be better than their ancestors, because only these survive, mediocrity dies out. Along comes human evolution and transforms animal survival into the human attempt to understand and to make sense. It creates art, stories, mythology and science.Thes biological and historical facts make us responsible for our lives and believing in the free will. This humanistic responsibility to work on your personal world makes the belief in the free will an obvious part of the humanist mind.( Strange as it seems, it makes the opposite camp made of unusual bedfellows: the free will is very questionable both for the hardcore materialists with their determinism and for the pious religious people depending on the Almighty). This responsibility also makes the personal practice and personal growth a natural demand and sometimes fun. This part is not unlike Sartre’s principle of becoming.

Exploring the human nature in your personal relationships and in society

All the above makes a humanist a very individualistic creature. We think and feel for ourselves, we hate only a few things- the mob is one of them.  The healthy competition makes us trying to be the best we can be. The cooperation in the society works through skills to love, to create friendships and to be grateful. Also to be playful, funny and happiable (able and trying to be happy). All the goody-goody characteristic of the humanists and the humanitarians come naturally, as a part of exploring the human nature. We see the other human in everybody we meet, we believe in the democracy, equality for races, women, gay etc. Of course, we worry about overpopulation, violence, the depletion of natural resources, of habitats, all that. We seek an elusive balance in the society between competition and cooperation. We believe that the work on the personal growth leads to the more sophisticated values, above money, power, and sex. The peace, beauty, and harmony come to mind, these would align well with the survival of the homo sapiens as the meaning of life.

We recognize the dark side of human nature. We all sometimes behave like animals or worse. The diversity and competition feed fear and greed, the work is never done, the work on “shadow” in each of us.

Embracing all myths as a source of wisdom and cultural diversity.

We think that all children are the humanists until taught fear/nationalism and fear/religion. We think that most of the naturally normal people remain humanists for the rest of their life. They follow naturally guts and instincts of the human nature but some, on the top, follow the belief in the Divine, according to their particular Myth. We believe that all the Myths, from most ancient to most modern, are created by human intelligence and they are true, as they teach us the valuable wisdom and lessons. Thus, everybody can practice any religion, but should not force this on others. Make sure that everybody has the same freedom (as per UN charter of human rights) and that include the members of the family and community, especially in the lower position of power. One’s religious practices should not override or interfere with the local customs and lifestyle.

The Humanists’ Quest: To create our own, new myth.

This is  the only one new myth we need, and we need it desperately: The survival of the Homo sapiens. Can a small, unlikely, unwilling and confused group of people create a shift in the Universe, like a magic power of the old time heroes ?

The plan

Define the Humanists positively: we are the members of the human species, with the free will and evolutionary created human intelligence, which defines and creates our worldview. We are a curious and a hyper-social species and we are learning how to combine competition and cooperation to survive as a species. We have a famously grand pedigree of learners: the mammals, the apes, and the best learner – homo sapiens. All our DNA is full of ultimate skills in figuring things out, our instincts, the senses and, recently, our civilizations.

This means that all children, until indoctrinated, are humanists, and later are still humanists plus some extra beliefs. It also means that the mythology is a form of learning, a tool to grow up. There is little objection to that, regarding ancient myths, like Sisyphus or Prometheus or Noah and the Deluge. But we should treat more modern myths, in the same way, the way to learn from them and to grow up through them, including the myths of Jesus and of Mahomet, of Kremlin, of Mao, of the Wall Street and of the Supercollider .

In this way, since pre-history, we are basically all humanists. The religious people are the humanists too, they are extra-humanists, they believe in some supernatural intelligence, but we see this as a myth, true, useful, but just a myth, as the hundreds of other myths. Getting huff and puff about it is really primitive and killing people for it is just ridiculous .

French people say “if you resist, it persists”, the Taoists say “the Master leads doing nothing and the people are led not feeling it”. Let’s bring all strange folks to the human folds, let’s start exploring the way of the empathy and cooperation and try to avoid the annihilation. What can a minute group of Humanists do, few in number, vaguely defined  (mostly by the negation of something which does not exist (sic!), with no political or moral force?

For Goodness sake – literally- and for the sake of our grandchildren, we have to reinvent ourselves.

Using Philozophy.com

This post is going to be published as a part of Worldview Owner’s Manual.  It is posted on my blog to invite you to cooperate in this project.                                           

At that moment, this is going to be a very short chapter, the membership is being slowly created, the etiquette is practically in diapers.

We hope to create a community of like-minded, curious explorers of the last frontier- of the self, in the best Socratic tradition of having your life examined. We hope that this group will grow, will enjoy the benefits of working on the worldview and contribute to the progress in the building a prosperous, democratic and free society. I am worrying that this idea’s time has not yet come, but the future of the mankind is in the individuality, education and freedom of expression, all of them are promoted by the Philozophy.com. Conversely, I believe, if we won’t do it ( I mean if we don’t change our wicked ways and do not befriend each other), we all, or most of us, die in about 30-40 years.

Work on your worldview, share, comment on the others’ work, have fun.

If you’re ready to work on your worldview now click here

How to Build your Personal Worldview

This post is going to be published as a part of Worldview Owner’s Manual.  It is posted on my blog to invite you to cooperate in this project.                                           

This is the first chapter in which I’ll discuss the process of working on your personal, unique worldview. I promise that this process will be interesting and rewarding and will make you a better person and the world a better place. It might appear that the two distinct parts of the process can be distinguished: the making of your worldview, conceiving it, and writing down the answers into philozophy.com web site. But it is much more complicated, and you will see it as soon as you begin.

First, you are not creating it, you are teasing it out from your subconsciousness, from your past, from your image (or rather images) of yourself. Like going to hell and back.

The writing it down requires some skills and some courage and some freedoms, and one doesn’t know , really can’t know whether one has them. And when you find them you are a different person from the one you have started with… The writing is the creative process and the form can not really be separated from the content.

Secondly, as I mentioned before, one usually goes through the phases of the working on it:

      1 Browsing

  1. Writing “placement” answers (like “I will tell you as soon as I know” or “human cognition is not yet equipped to handle this question” etc.)
  2. The jokes and/or expressing the dislike towards the site, the questions, us, etc.
  3. The answers where you start to see a glimpse of you.

The benefits are visible from the level 1, the first answer you browse through, but naturally they accumulate and accelerate as you are walking the walk.

Thirdly, there are two sites to work on, the present one  and the future one, the one I am hoping for.

We ( Sophia , our friendly developer and I) are planning to remake and uplift the site.

  1. so , how to do it. No hurry , step by step. Remember , you are the human, the Curious One.

The questions will stay there, and that or this way, you will be trying to understand them to the last day of your life.

I suggest these steps:

  1. Read the Manual (or a part of it). This will slow you down, allow for the reflection and the introspection. Enjoy and repeat. Make notes, how exciting you are doing something completely new, this is rare in our secure lives, and the other rare thing , you completely  do not know the end result. It is like going to a sport event and the rules change every 10 minutes. And it is a bit like a mortal combat (unlike “Mortal Combat”), the results will be with you at the deathbed.
  2. Browse, this is again a shifting target: the more people participating , the richer and more interesting will be browsing. See how silly-heroic-insecure and brilliant people are. There is no ”party line”, each answer comes from the real person like you.
  3. Browse the “famous philosophers” collection which is slowly growing. Even these “giants” had a hard time with the succinct answer to the big questions.
  4. Respond, click and note the answer which can be useful for you, wise or just beautiful.
  5. You may find an answer (or answers) which you really like- “reuse” it, make it yours for now. This would be your first, ginger start of the budding personal worldview.
  6. Pick the first question, out of 14, which you are going to work on. I suggest an area which you are familiar with, thought a lot of it, like it a lot. To choose easier, read the beginning of the Part Two chapters. The philosophical questions become more practical, everyday things, may be related to your very personal story.
  7. Write this story, or a joke or an insight. This is your answer. For now, no hurry.

If the story is too long, put it as the “comment” (the future version will have separate “laboratory” space) and it will help you to formulate the  answer condensed to 250 characters. We wanted the answer to be long enough to show unique opinion, but short enough to be read, understood and commented on.

  1. This point is the most important. Return and edit the answers. Like “real” writers, they edit and edit and edit, they have hundreds of pages to edit, you – 3 or 4 lines…

Then, return after several months, knock yourself on the head, does it sound like metal? you are not a robot, you are not dead, you changed. You’ll be surprised unless you are still on the “early answers”, they reflect not who you are, but your “issues”. And those tend to persist…

 

Move slowly, answer more and more questions: notice that later questions, those you did not like, are more difficult. They correspond with your hang ups and figuring them out will bring the most personal benefits.

If you’re ready to work on your worldview now, click here.

 

Why invest time and effort in working on your Personal Worldview?

This post is going to be published as a part of Worldview Owner’s Manual.  It is posted on my blog to invite you to cooperate in this project.                                           

     “You are a hero!” I repeat this several times a day. It is what I say in my office to a mother who brings her new baby and tell me that she is breastfeeding. Many of them will quit in few days, some will breastfeed for weeks or months. But she is a hero, and in the same way you are a hero. You are attempting to work on your worldview. This statement urgently needs two clarifications( so urgently, that I will proceed at the peril of mistake of not starting with the thesis of the chapter.)

First, I have to remind you that you are not going to reveal any Truth about the Universe. If you are, you are going to get the Nobel Prize, become a prophet or be invited by Oprah. But it is a test, a test of you being unique, individual thinking being. The dogs, cats, the robots, the mob members should not apply. We are going to work on the essence of your experience, of your story. We are going to work on our personal worldview.  

Second, I need to say something about the term “to work on”. And it is more difficult than it looks from the distance. Because you are my hero, you are already working on it. Actually, nolens-volens everybody is working on it. Our every action is an attempt to understand our world and ourselves. And we have been working on it since birth, and our species has been absolutely famous of working on it since we jumped down from the branch. So, our work here is just an “accelerated method” or “advanced course”. We will be transferring our gut feelings and deep instinctual worries and hopes into written, short, crisp thoughts.

 

     In this chapter, I will discuss the dilemma of “why to do it”. And it is a real dilemma. Billions of people never have done it and they go their more or less happy way. Initially, we thought (really!) that the fun of working on it would be so great that no elaborate cajoling would be necessary.

Be advised: this work is arduous and takes longer than expected. Many famous philosophers never did it. If you’ve been to counseling, you know about spilling your guts – and justly so, this metaphor doesn’t sound very inviting.

But it is worth it.

      The most obvious benefit of this work is of course , personal. The personal growth that is.

The term of the personal growth may seem rather vague, but not for a worldview owner. You go from the question to question, you write down your answers and you’re learning about yourself at the every step. Usually, you start with the questions which are most familiar and finding this out very often is  in itself a revelation. Like “am I really worry about the death?” “Is material more important than spiritual?”. You go through several answers and the picture of a human emerges.

Is it you? Or no picture emerges. Oh -oh… You might find yourself in the unfamiliar “territory”. Look, this is great! And you can stop and review and edit.

It is similar to the psychotherapy but more interesting and profound. As you go further and further, you’ll observe that these “late” questions are harder and more revealing. If it is difficult to condense your answer, I suggest that you write a longer version in “comments” and come back other day and finish the job. I have never revisited my worldview without an insight and editing. The most beneficial times to work on it is during the crisis- you’ll be surprised how much it helps to get clarity of the feelings.

There are professional philosophers who would work on big questions with you for a fee, as some sort of therapy. They claim to make you happier and more resilient. I agree, but having it written may be people liking it or commenting on your answers, has for me an additional element of building your own intellectual and emotional castle. You can just hide there if needed, or you can add another tower!

Think also that working on the personal worldview may and should “branch” into the conversations about personal freedoms and personal values. They also deserve to be transferred from implicit to explicit.

Of course, there is always the anxiety that the worldview that emerges from your writing might be incompatible with what you do, who you are. Well, there you are and it is good thing that you got confronted, isn’t it?

     These goodies are all personal, but I believe that this work can have an impact on the society. Does everybody need the personal, unique worldview? In the same way in which everybody needs good education- yes, everybody does. And then people can choose- to be a savage, easterner or westerner , are they any other options? I believe that the people who did the worldview are not only more successful but also easier to talk and negotiate with, they know where they stand. Creating one’s personal worldview can be beneficial for the society, especially if people in charge, people with power will do it and bravely share it with the rest of citizens.

Lastly, participating in the growing community of the worldview owners adds to our knowledge about the society and its values.


     At the end just a hypothesis: The more one works on transferring one’s implicit worldview into the explicit form, the more one become a humanist. And this, by itself, is beneficial for this person and for all humans. Now, I mean the humanist as a person who explores and promotes and holds dear the human values and it includes both religious and non-religious people like Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, my Mom or Kurt Johnson, a prominent force in the Interspirituality Movement.