Sunday, December 16, 2007

Change is good

I am writing this for anyone who can read it. I am writing it for humans who can decode these symbols into meaning, and also for the multitude of bots that crawl the web parsing web pages looking for statistical occurrences of words in association with one another. The bots think a lot like you, e.g. if they see "hello world, I have this plain little web page viagra viagra viagra viagra that is about me" they know something suspicious is afoot.

I am not here to talk about web pages, but about us. By "us" I mean anyone that can read this web page.

Note what happened in the last two paragraphs. A filter was created ( a.k.a. a qualification ), and anything that passed through the filter was labeled. The processing, or rhetorical device, created a special class of cognitive beings. You are in this class, and there are many living things that are not.

This rhetorical device is one real instance of evolution. We "web page readers" are an exclusive class who can social network on the web, give each other paying jobs as a result ( and the pay buys food, water, and social prestige things that also function as evolutionary filters), or in very many instances mate and have offspring. That type of baby definitely came into being filtered through the first two paragraphs in my blog entry.

Human evolution is ...... I am not going to finish that statement. The statement makes a mistake of tense. "Is" should be "was". Hopefully you have seen a puddle of water that recently melted from ice (there are some humans who haven't seen this). You know it just melted, because some little bits of ice are still part of the spot of water. But you do not know the melting process exactly as it happened, including the original shape of the ice.

Like the ice changing its shape as it turns to water, we don't know the original shape of "human", nor the exact posture and way of being that was "human" along the way. The term is equifinality -there are many possible routes to our current configuration.

Human evolution has some of faster-legs-will-survive components to it. This is where we are like all in the biological realm. The entities with the better functioning parts, resulting in better functioning whole self, exploiting a niche in the surrounding environment to secure energy sources for ourselves -those entities survive to the next second in the timeline.

In the last 5,000 years the faster-legs component has taken on far less of a role. As an example, Tamerlane was not able to walk, but was leader of thousands and conquered/exterminated huge cities. He was physiologically inferior to the millions he subjugated. When you ask how Tamerlane could be is when you start exploring evolution that happens as a result of culture.

Evolution through culture is an even harder past tense to discern than physiological evolution. Right now there are people mingling and mating as a result of being in microtribes that exist in virtual worlds online, recently there was a love-triangle of NASA astronauts that got international press. My great-great-grandfather was an Irish immigrant raised with his brother in an orphanage in New York City. He and his brother fled the orphanage, with my ancestor working on the railroads and marrying a Cherokee and the brother becoming a stock trader who had a mansion in New York and San Francisco.

Babies are coming out of these processes. Then those babies are going to mutate the culture even more (e.g. James Brown and Henry Ford).

The trend in the last 5,000 years has been towards less adaptation in relation to nature, and more adaptation to the symbolic and cognitive. The gods have even changed their residence -once they inhabited every local tree and stone and now more likely are "sky gods". The sky gods are Allah and Yahweh, out away from all the daily mundane often leading their warriors on an abstract faith-based agenda on Earth. Lots of todays babies have come out of these warrior's progress, with whole portions of the planet having little or no people outside this class of family religion.

This process of filtering humanity's next generation based on symbolic and cognitive artifacts poses a dilemma for humanists. Remember the ice to water melting process, and how if you encounter it at 5:00PM you do not know exactly what it looked like at 3:00PM? Humanists worship the sanctity of humans at 3:00PM, are calling the current status at 5:00PM an outcome of social injustice, and would ideally like 6:00PM to see us progressing to something like what 3:00PM was.

The humanists are just another particular filter imposed on the present, a meta-aware systems intervention or systems disruption. The filter has little ability to deliver on producing a less exclusive society, it is merely another construct of exclusion -a church of contempt for the process that is ever more prevalent.

That process is change, and it is has no leader or cruel demagogue. It will be more fair, democratic and brilliant than what you or I could have designed with our best intentions.

Hopefully, see you in that future.

Supporting and supplemental documents:
Industrial Evolution
Does natural selection favor the rise of capitalist economies?

Out of Control
by Kevin Kelly

Searching for Similar Diagnosis Through DNA (new communities emerging from genetic mutations)


ryan said...

I wasn't so sure where you were going with this, but I like the outcome...the idea that people are reflecting on a bygone time and wanting to return the if we FULLY understand the past the same as if it were today.

This is especially true because our understanding of past events are mainly based on symbolic explanations of them...though some people do physically have experiences that live with them in the present that are stronger and more pronounced then symbolic representations.

This is probably one of the more positive postings I've read of yours.

The Serpent Lord said...

Good article.

Regarding the sky gods: the pre-christian norse/german/english religions have a very complex relationship between the tribe of sky gods (the Aesir such as Odin, Thor and Tyr) and the earthier Vanir. Instead of one group subjected and transformed into demons of the underworld, the rival tribes of co-existed in spite of their conflicts. Theories about this relationship include the idea that the sky gods only partially replaced the older earth-based religion, or that the different gods reflect different social classes or relationships between tribes. Regardless for the reason, this religion was one of the strongest competitors to christianity in it's time and
the Norse had a very complex moral sense that allowed them to be conquerers and businessmen at the same time. (Something many world leaders aspire to today with mixed results.)

A trans-national affinity group to keep an eye on is Deaf culture. 150 years ago people with low hearing and speech ability were not considered intelligent beings. Without words they must be unable to think, so they must have the minds of animals rather than what was considered "human" at the time. When it was discovered that they had languages of their own which were as incomprehensible and foreign as any spoken language, a serious effort was made to eradicate this "new"* species by re-educating the Deaf in schools where signed languages were forbidden. This exposed even more deaf people to Deaf culture through covert transmission of the language, and today Deaf culture includes non-deaf children of Deaf parents and other people closely involved in Deaf communities.

(*we literally cannot know how old Deaf culture is because we don't have descriptions of Deaf communities before the 1850's)

Deaf culture has an interesting relationship to modern technology. It is very difficult to record signed languages without video recording technology. Spatial relationships and movement are not only used to create discrete signs but to tag signs with special context-specific meaning.

Lip-reading skills common among Deaf people are helping machines understand speech. The resulting combination of machine and "human" (by the more recent definition of human which includes the Deaf) has even provided us with the dubious privilege of listening in on the private life of Adolf Hitler:

(See Hitler Speaks on Google video.)

Another interesting character is Robert Weitbrecht - who was born deaf but not raised in Deaf culture. Weitbrecht worked as an electrical engineer on the Manhattan Project, and developed a radio-teletype for ham radio, but as he became more involved in Deaf culture over time, Weitbrecht decided TTY over the existing phone network would be affordable to most deaf people (and not require ham certification), setting the stage for a confrontation with the phone monopoly similar to the later efforts of crackers and phreaks.

(See the first chapter of "A phone of our own")