Fri 31 Aug, 2007 05:11 am
The Next Step in Human Evolution
Just as the concept of God acted as an evolutionary stepladder, science, if applied similarly will boost human evolution. And just in time, for we have reached the limits of the validity of the concept of God, and the legitimacy of the social, political and economic structures built upon it.
The argument is that in the Upper Paleolithic primitive man lived a fairly flat existence. He! acted instinctually on the basis of the artifact-artificer relationship - in that footprints or sounds of animals told him of food or danger, but he didn't consciously recognize the relationship. (The artifact is a made object and the artificer is the (absent) maker of the object - his! existence inferred in evidence of design.) Induced by instinctual behaviors in it's course, sudden intellectual recognition - that 'of course' moment when he! finally became aware of the idea was revalatory. It's demonstrated in the archeological record by the sudden appearance of art, but recognition probably did not occur initially in relation to evidence of design in nature, or even the regularities of day and night, summer and winter. More likely, prepared for the conceptual leap by experience, but as yet unaware, some distant ancestor stumbled across some pre-human litter.
'Who made this?' he cried and 'click' - the light went on.
'Who made me - who made the world?' - immediately he was a Cartesian scholar for it struck him! that everything was somehow made and therefore like the hand and footprints about a heap of rock and bloodied bones - by someone. The idea that someone made him and the world so enthralled his primitive imagination he rehearsed the idea ad infinitum - intellectually rehearsing the abstract relationship inherent to the concept by applying it anew to everything. Who made me? Who made that? What can I make? He! may even have developed conceptual language to communicate that which gave him the ability to form conceptual language - indeed, that which made him! truly human.
The significance of the idea should not be underestimated nor its deep spiritual significance be undermined, for it seems likely that it changed human perception so radically as to enable separate hunter-gatherer tribal groups to come together to form primitive societies. Acting as an absolute authority for law, the concept of a creator unlocked a conceptual and material avalanche, a cornucopia of ideas, inventions and goods that could only occur in a social setting - not all of them good.
Ideas once employed to benefit man! now drive us to behave in a manner that's the absolute contradiction of the spiritual worth those ideas developed embody, honor and express. They have reached the limits of their legitimacy and that would be disastrous for us were it not that science is known and constitutes the next conceptual shift driving human evolution.
As we approach upon the limits of fossil fuels, upon the leading edge of a storm of climate change, and as our population spirals beyond measure we cannot survive with old ideas that have us blood boiling ready to do eachother in and stone cold indifferent to those beyond view. Science gives us the tools, the motive, the opportunity, and a reasoned ideology that directs us to survive.
For 150 years, since Darwin published 'On the Origin of Species' we have been prepared by the growing coherence and prevalence of scientific knowledge for conscious intellectual recognition of its significance. In much the same way that intellectual recognition of the artifact-artificer relationship changed man's! understanding of himself in relation to reality - similarly, science redefines that relationship. An honest and unqualified acceptance of scientific method, knowledge, technology and overall picture can remake the world by recasting man! in his! relationship to reality. Acceptance of and adjustment to valid knowledge of reality will be beneficial at every level - from an organism responding to the physical, chemical, biological nature of its environment, through to a cleansing of the human soul in a rationale and purpose for action that is clear and just and sane.
Applied socially, politically and economically science will enable the formation of global society and direct human action in the course of betterment and survival. Just as the concept of God made us truly human, acceptance of and adjustment to valid knowledge will honor the humanity invested in the concept, benefiting man! such that it will again be evident that we are on the path to 'God' - even as we embrace redefinition by science.
- an honest and unqualified acceptance of scientific understanding.
- a global hierarchical system organized on the basis of intellectual meritocracy.
- a commitment to the continued survival of the human species.
- a commitment to human equality:
- material equality within the bounds of environmental sustainability.
- no one shall bear arms but in the service of the global government.
- a right to self replacement in two halves of two children subject to female consent.
[/INDENT]In face of mounting threats to our very existence we should consider our good fortune very carefully that such knowledge is known to us as to enable us to survive. It cannot be done unconsciously - by social, political and economic structures founded on and directed by less valid ideas, employing science as a tool and ignoring scientific knowledge as a rule in the conduct of our affairs. The modern equivalent of that 'of course' moment must occur - that human action directed in the course of a scientific understanding can implement hydrogen, wire the world, employ, feed, heal, disarm and educate - in short to create conditions conducive to continued survival.
We fought a second World War for the better part a decade - showing how powerful action in the course of a single idea can be, and how devastating the consequences if that knowledge is not valid. Certainly it will be difficult, but as we endured the Second World War we would endure through a similar logistical effort in the course of a scientific ideology, to mobilize men! and resources for the purpose of securing survival, and we would live to see a new dawn rather than die with night closing in for our species.
Power and Power
In 'Energy for Survival - the alternative to extinction' Wilson Clark discusses the relationship between power and power.
'We are faced with a grave problem. Since the industrial revolution, the industrialized nations have been engaged in a race to increase energy consumption in order to increase population and build great bases of political power.' (p.31)
In the face of the energy crisis and climate change - the first rational act of a global government would be to implement hydrogen technology. The infrastructure required is massive - far too expensive for capitalism to provide, even if democratic government were able to summon the will, it's physically and technologically possible and would no doubt be a boon to humankind, but it is not ideologically possible in that religiously founded political groups in economic competition cannot achieve it.
Assuming the adoption of science there is no technological nor resource reason why hydrogen could not be implemented - giving us near boundless energy in increasing balance with the climate. If the motives Clark identifies are correct then they are served by the adoption of science and the implementation of hydrogen in that global government would be hugely powerful, unsustainable populations could be sustained while energy consumption rises across the globe. More obviously it gives government the ability to do something, vitally necessary that previously it couldn't do - but it would not be the same kind of power. Directed by science in the course of survival, the enormous power of global government will be non-polluting.
It is inherent to our situation that the question of global government be considered and a level ground chosen upon which all can meet. Scientific knowledge is valid of reality and the same to you as to me. It provides knowledge of the problem and the possibility of a solution. Indeed, it offers many solutions and great understanding. It's the way and the light.
Wiring In - human intellect as the soul of the machine
In view of *Martin's predictions for the sheer speed, volume and power of computers in the future it occurred to me that humans occupy the space between computers and the world, and that if we want the benefits computer power can undoubtedly provide, the computer network needs to become part of a circuit between the human mind, reality and the computer 'mind.' The stronger that circuit - which is to say the more the interconnections the greater the benefit we will derive from wiring in the formidable computational abilities of such computers.
Assuming the adoption of science, the technology could be applied without regard to monetary rationality, and access could be unrestricted and equalitarian. Otherwise the huge advantage computational power affords us will be spent erecting and maintaining codewalls, and further, the physical technology will be stunted, access will be differential, the benefits unevenly spread and the consequent social effect will be invalid. Assuming the adoption of science however, Martin's vision of personal avatars running any number of personal, inter-personal, official and educational expert routines, but in coordination with programs dealing with everything from traffic flow to food production, all suddenly comes together in an exciting way.
These machines will be intelligent if we can integrate them into a relationship between human understanding and reality that is itself intelligent - which is to say scientifically valid, that reasoned intellect imbue these calculations with meaning, value and purpose.
In the course of less valid ideas the technology will not be applied on the basis of merit but for economic considerations - that the technology will not yield maximum effect, but those effects it does have will not be ultimately beneficial.
The ability of such machines to nullify individual liberty and personal privacy is a fearful prospect for they are important rights in a context of inequality, that it would not surprise me greatly if man! came to resent the intrusive nature of the technology, if as the world turns sour these technologies are applied by states looking inward with the microscopic magnification these computers will allow.
Otherwise, applied in the course of a struggle for survival they are a very exciting prospect for it seems not unreasonable to imagine that, running at 1021 FLOPS and above a few such computers could perfect an economy - even taking into account social need and environmental sustainability. I'm not sure that economic operations can be equated with Floating Operations Per Second on a 1:1 ratio - but if so, a billion trillion FLOPS could easily model the economic operations required to produce every single item six billion people consume in year** - and could do so 86,400 times a day - that competition for efficiency could occur inside the machine, and with this giant at our back we could get on with the task of securing our survival.
The task - design and build a civilization living in anticipation of the next state shift, be it conceptual, like the adoption of science, or technological, like the integration of the computer - finding the rungs of the ladder and climbing toward the light like there's a beast at our heels.
[INDENT]* James Martin. The Meaning of the 21st Century. (p.210-12)
** based on author's consumption pattern.
[/INDENT]Other thoughts: It will be possible in future to illuminate the world we occupy with computer generated information - intelligent contact lenses or even optical implants will highlight the world in our view with knowledge we will consult as we do our inner eye.
The Rightness Instinct
The need to be right is an evolutionary trait - common to all organisms, from the simplest bacterium through to us, the most complex life form we know of.
The cruel calculus of evolution: function or die, crafts the biology of the organism in relation to the definite dynamics of reality, that in a purely physical sense, the surviving organism has to be right. We might call this the biological intelligence of surviving organisms. It applies to all living things, from bacteria through to us - all organisms must be physiologically arranged so as to function.
By random mutations that were either beneficial or detrimental to the survival prospects of the organism, sensory organs and limbs developed, giving rise to behavioral intelligence. Again, as the product of the function or die algorithm behavioral intelligence was fostered by evolution. Behaviors conducive to survival were promoted, and those not discouraged by extinction. Behavioral intelligence applies to all surviving organisms capable of behavior.
Acting in the course of behavioral intelligence, one particular branch of a large family of apes suddenly developed a new form of intelligence. We became aware; conscious of our existence in relation to reality. Prepared by evolutionary development to be biologically intelligent, and acting instinctually, though unconsciously in a behaviorally intelligent manner, perhaps some distant ancestor stumbled across some pre-human litter.
[INDENT]'Who made this?' he asked himself! and 'click' - the light went on.
'Who made me?' 'Who made the world?'
[/INDENT]James Shreeve's 1995 book 'The Neanderthal Enigma' suggests:
Abstract conceptual intelligence is the defining feature of humankind - and applies only to us. It enabled us to see the unseen artificer behind the artifact of our existence, allowed Paleolithic man hold a mental representation of a horse in his! mind, just as it enables the scientist to see the meaning of observed phenomena. It provides us with the experience of complex emotional states, allows us to communicate ideas with written and spoken words - to develop a vocabulary of a different quality to that of the emotionally charged screeching of animals. More than the defining feature of humankind, abstract conceptual thought is what makes us truly human.
Ingrained at the physiological level, played out on the behavioral level, the need to be right has guided the development of abstract conceptual thought, eventually resulting in a coherent, highly valid scientific understanding of reality - but equally, entrenching social, political and economic ideas we are instinctually inclined to assert the rightness of - even in face of contrary evidence and sound scientific reason. But the law is the law: function or die - our intelligence is being tested and it is within our grasp to be right, to pass the test, to function and to survive.
In the previous four chapters I have tried to paint a picture of a possible future for humankind. It's not an easy future, for it asks a lot of everyone, but contains the promise of something truly right and decent, just and sane. Still, perhaps it seems a little illusory - a nice idea that's never going to happen, so now we're going to look at what's going to happen otherwise. We've identified the four main threats to human existence above - for the record they are the energy crisis, climate change, overpopulation and environmental degradation. They're arranged in order of immanence but energy, climate and population are causally related, and so discussing one we must discuss the others.
In 1975 Wilson Clark published 'Energy for Survival - the Alternative to Extinction'
- a 650 page encyclopedia of energy alternatives that begins by outlining the threat of extinction and continues to analyze more than a hundred energy alternatives.
30 years later, on Monday 16th January 2006, The Independent published a front-page article heralding a new publication by Professor James Lovelock: 'The Revenge of Gaia' - suggesting that it's already too late to tackle climate change.
The earth's climate control system; made up of an array of interactions between climate, chemistry and biological life, each with inputs and outputs determined by the others, has been so unbalanced by human activity that now it's functioning - not to maintain a stable and habitable environment, quite the opposite, it's working to amplify the inputs from human activity to destabilize the climate.
'Before this century is over, billions of us will die,' writes Lovelock 'and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Artic where the climate remains tolerable.'
I think use of the word 'already' was editorializing by the Guardian for Lovelock is surely aware that the American government were first briefed on the theory as long ago as the 1950's, just as he's aware of the inadequacy of the measures national politicians refer to as if the problem were solved.
From 'A guide to the climate change convention and its Kyoto Protocol' published by the Climate Change Secretariat in 2002, we note that:
'At the heart of the Kyoto Protocol lies its set of legally-binding emissions targets for
industrialized countries. These amount to a total cut among all Annex I Parties of at
least 5% from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.'
While it is suggested that this constitutes a 20% reduction on what would otherwise be produced by 2012, in reality this means that over the 22 years from 1990 to 2012 more than 95% of the emissions that were being produced are still being produced.
Even with such modest aims, already in 2001 President George W. Bush had announced that the United States would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol - and it may be that Lovelock's predictions were made in view of this fact, in hope of bringing the biggest polluter in the world to it's senses.
In an interview for 'Tonight with Trevor McDonald' Monday 4th July 2005, the President explained why:
[INDENT]'Tonight: But Mr President, if I may, the predictions about global warming are very dire. The UK's chief scientist says that it poses a bigger threat than global terrorism. Isn't it therefore irresponsible for you to say, as you've done, that you walked away from Kyoto and won't order cuts in carbon dioxide emissions because it would damage the American economy?
Tonight: (interrupting) But isn't that putting American economic interests above that of the global interests of the environment?
[/INDENT]President Bush proposes to pursue technological solutions, and on one level this is a compelling answer because, as discussed above there are technological solutions to the energy crisis that would also combat climate change. However, capitalism cannot afford it, as the August 29, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review suggests:
[INDENT]'The Great Blackout of 2003 has finally made many millions aware of what had been known by the electric utility industry, regulators, and other professionals for more than a decade; that under-investment in the nation's transmission infrastructure, while stress on the system was rising, due to "electricity deregulation" policies, has dramatically increased the risk of catastrophic failures. Just as the California energy crisis three years ago was characterized as the result of a "perfect storm"-where deregulation on top of inadequate capacity, plus manipulation and stealing, led to blackouts and bankruptcy-the Great Blackout of 2003 was also the result of decades of failed "free-market" policies.'
[/INDENT]Profit hungry privatized utility companies had been under-investing in electricity infrastructure such that the richest nation on earth was unable to keep the lights on, and above we see the unwillingness of the same nation to agree the most modest of greenhouse gas emissions targets for fear it will effect the national economy.
Capitalism cannot undertake such a massive project - not even the richest nation for it's own few people, less yet for the world.
In short, it's a lie, a false ideology that fails to acknowledge anything but the factors of production - and even if it does arrange these in an efficient manner, a debatable point, it's a moot point because it dooms our species to extinction.
Over-population is another dimension of these very same problems - but globally presents a huge and complex picture with a different face in different regions.
Further, population predictions are notoriously difficult because of the number of assumptions that have to be adopted into the calculation, and the geometric disparity projected into the future from even the slightest error in those initial assumptions.
Quoting a U.N. report that suggests global population is set to level off at around 9 billion by 2050, Brian Whitaker's article in the Guardian, 06/11/04 goes on to explain:
[INDENT]'The latest calculation is based on "medium-level" expectations that fertility rates will decline significantly - to about two children per woman - even in developing nations, and then rise again slightly.
[/INDENT][INDENT]But the report, issued by the UN's population division, gives warning that even slight variations - "as little as one-quarter of a child" - below or above this two-child norm could produce dramatic swings, resulting in world totals ranging from as little as 2.3 billion up to 36.4 billion by 2050.'
[/INDENT]The medium level prediction of the U.N.'s population division is echoed in the above table from the U.S. Census Bureau, showing a steady rate of population increase over the course of a century. The table below is compiled from longer-term population trends; and casts into stark relief the assumptions upon which the U.N./U.S. predictions are based.
From 1800 to 2000 we see something in the region of a six-fold increase in global population.
Coincident with the industrial revolution in the West, this population explosion from 1800 may have been caused by the very same factors upon which the U.N./U.S. rely to suggest that population will level off; namely, economic development resulting in reduced infant mortality, allowing for reduced fertility in developing nations.
For population growth to slow to a stop at 9 billion would require as dramatic a change in the long-term trend as that which occurred from the beginning of the industrial revolution. While it has been suggested above that China and India, the two most populous nations on earth are developing rapidly, even so, such an argument assumes that economic development in developing countries will be reasonably equitable, allowing for the emergence of a healthy and educated middle-class inclined to smaller families - rather than a stark polarity between the few very rich and many desperately poor.
The U.N./U.S. figures infer that economic development will manage over-population - even while economic development means greater use of resources and energy - depleting remaining oil reserves and adding to climate change. At present the richest 20% of nations consume 86 percent of world resources, while the poorest 20% use only 1.3 percent. On the basis of the U.N./U.S. figures the 58 million people born in developed countries during the 1990's pollute more than the 915 million people born in developing countries during the same period.
But for the 9bn figure to prove nearly accurate, the benefits of economic development would need to be fairly evenly distributed, though this would still constitute an imbalanced equation between population, resource use and environmental sustainability - it's impossible to believe can be righted by technology capitalism cannot afford to apply.
1990 5,332 13,810 In order to examine these assumptions about the
1991 4,297 11,130 benefits of economic development we will look at
1992 5,322 13,786 the Amazon region of Brazil.
1993 5,950 15,410 Initially settled from the 1970's, simply to occupy the
1994 5,751 14,896 region through government sponsored relocation of
1995 11,219 29,059 the urban poor, we want to know if exploitation of
1996 7,013 18,160 these resources has resulted in the kind of economic
1997 5,034 13,040 development that constitutes a motive for controlled
1998 6,501 16,840 population growth. The figures on the left show year
1999 6,663 17,259 on year increases in deforestation. To put these figures
2000 7,658 19,836 in context, the U.K. is 94,247 sq.mi. or 244,100 sq.km.
2001 7,027 18,130 - that over the 14 year period shown an area of forest
2002 9,845 25,500 more than twice the size of the U.K. has been cleared.
2003 9,500 24,605 Clearance is achieved by burning the forest, both
2004 10,088 26,129 releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the
TOTAL 203,882 528,005 atmosphere and killing the ecological system that, by
National Institute of converting carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrate
Space Research. and oxygen mitigates the effects of global greenhouse
Brazil. gas emissions globally.
According to Wikipedia: 'Brazil is today South America's largest economy, the world's ninth largest economy, and fifth most populous nation.' Clearly, exploiting these resources has generated a great deal of wealth, however, the article continues:
'By the 1990s, more than one out of four Brazilians continued to survive on less than one dollar a day.'
From Encarta we note: 'In 1950 Brazil had 51,944,000 inhabitants, and by 1980 the population had more than doubled, rising to 119,002,700. The most recent census, in 2000, recorded a population of 169,799,170. A 2005 estimate placed the population at 186,112,794.'
Thus, Brazil's population has more than tripled in the past 55 years, and while massive exploitation of the natural environment has generated huge wealth for the few, the benefits of economic development have failed to reach the poorest 25% of the population.
Therefore, despite the massive exploitation of environmental resources, in absolute terms there are just as many people living a hand to mouth existence as there were 50 years ago. It's simply the wrong approach. As mentioned above, the top 20% of nation-states consume something like 83% of the world's resources while the bottom 20% get just 1.3% between them. This bears a striking similarity to the distribution of wealth within capitalist societies; according to www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk, in the U.K. the top 1% own 23% of the wealth, the top 10% own more than half, while the top 50% of the population own 94% of the wealth. In the U.S., the top 1% own 38.1%, the top 10% own 59.4% while the top 50% of the population own over 95% of the wealth.
This tells us something about capitalist economics as a mechanism. Within the world, as within capitalist societies the function of capitalist economics is not to efficiently distribute resources, but to accumulate more wealth in fewer hands - and consequently, there's no discernable validity to the hypothesis that economic development will tackle population growth.
We can reasonably expect something in the region of 15 billion people to die in the final chapter of the short story of human existence - 10 billion of whom will be very poor.
Before the rich nations really begin to suffer, the poorest nations will fail to afford oil at inflated market prices. Tension between the rich nations over access to scarce remaining reserves will push the price beyond their reach and the global economy will begin to collapse, bottom up.
It won't be very noticeable from the rich nations point of view - as mentioned above, the poorest 20% of nations use 1.3% of global resources - but it will be noticeable to them. Food will become scare and starvation will set in. Once natural resources are depleted, tens of millions of people will die and as many again be displaced - and probably head north. The first we'll hear about it is when Spain turns its army out to protect the European border. Many will be killed.
But Europe will have its own problems. Rains pushed north from equatorial regions by climate change will dump monsoon rains, undermining agricultural production and at the same time causing massive flooding. Flooding will hit the financial/insurance sector hard - until they refuse cover to all but the mega-rich. Companies hit by flooding will go bust, causing unemployment and strain on welfare provision, while outbreaks of 'third-world diseases' will put increasing strain on medical services. As fuel and food become increasingly expensive criminality will rise to epidemic proportions - particularly after blackouts begin to occur, and they will become more and more frequent until the lights go out for good. As the army is turned against a population rioting for food, King William will leave Britain for New York - never to return.
The US will fare much better than Europe simply because it's bigger, but the deserts will expand northward scorching the land and shrouding the cities in a cloak of dust. Hurricanes born off the Gulf of Mexico will blow as far north as New York - smashing coastal towns and cities on the way, just as the economic failure of Europe takes it's toll on the US economy.
The Middle East - its oil reserves depleted will be abandoned to a dusty grave. Israel will nuke Iran. America won't much notice, and paranoia will set in.
Governments around the world will eye their neighbors with suspicion and hit the button at the slightest provocation. Radio-active clouds will spread disease around the globe, as poisons from untended industrial processes leak into the rivers and oceans. The US and Russia will be the last to act - but by then it will be all over for humankind. 75,000 nuclear weapons will take to the air and rain down enough destructive force to destroy every city on the planet 100 times over. Nothing will survive us - we will kill the earth.
This, or something like this will happen if we do not act to prevent it. All will be lost. 4 billion years of evolutionary struggle, that moment of realization when we became aware of God, the society it enabled, and the art, architecture, literature, music, cuisine that could only have occurred in a social setting. Then there's the science and the technology - valid knowledge of reality, knowledge applied to free us from labor and disease, entertain and inform us. All that can be saved. All it requires is that we accept what's true - that we are a single species occupying a single planet, facing threats to our very existence. We can apply scientific knowledge to overcome these threats - but it requires more of us than we have ever given. Honesty.