2. About the formation of consciousness
2.3. The mind and 'Increased Complexity'
I'll start with an update of the graphs I gave in my last post.
A. visualization of the cycle of life
B. 3 sets of arrows:
black : the cycle of life:
green: interactions between the strong and weak poles of the two different sets of polarities:
red : the interactions of the strong and weak principles of life:
C. 5 sets of polarities are at play
It is my view that approaching consciousness from the micro-perspective is reducing the operation of consciousness to a very limited part of its entire scope of operation. In other words I feel that it is necessary to situate consciousness in its all encompassing context which is the cycle of life. Consciousness is indeed a property of life. The graph here above is a trial at representing the context of consciousness (the cycle of life) and how consciousness interacts with the other dimensions at work in the cycle.
This kind of holistic view of how things operate does not exclude the reductionist approach taken by science. On the contrary. It starts by positing what science posits all along that the mind and consciousness derive from the brain. But instead of positing brain-mind in the traditional frame of Western dualism I prefer thinking in terms of polarities. Approached as polarities brain and mind no longer appear as opposed quantities but more as being complementary. It is then easier to situate their complementarity within the set they belong to.
The polarity brain-mind is one of the polarities at work within the cycle of life but its dance, from brain to mind and vice versa, is also interrelating with the dance of other polarities within the cycle of life that affects the outcome of the brain-mind dance. In that sense to understand the real working of consciousness we have to address the dynamic at play within the whole cycle of life and more particularly its:
A few preliminary remarks:
2.3.1. Societies and systems of knowledge formation
Among the ingredients for societies to engage in establishing systems of knowledge formation we saw earlier, in part 1, that the individuals must beforehand be able to communicate ideas and abstract concepts among themselves and we saw that this only happened after the human brain had evolved the Frontal Cortex which allowed for processing abstractions. Once humanity got the faculty to process language and abstract concepts it devised ways to groom and establish trust between larger number of individuals. This evolved the societal organization to a larger head count which after thousands of years of practice stabilized on the golden tribal number or Dunbar number. This was the moment knowledge formation was first systematized by human societies.
As we have seen knowledge formation resulted out of a given context that contained the combination of the right series of pre-existing ingredients:
Societal knowledge formation and individual knowledge acquisition exploded the perception of the domain of reality. From being limited, to the field of vision of the eyes', reality suddenly expanded to abstractions from these visions by the mind. This process of observation and abstraction spread over tens of thousands of years and the observations addressed identical natural phenomena all over the world: day-night, female-male, earth-sky, weak-strong, hard-soft, black-white, sunshine-rain, fire-water, far-near, after-before, behind-ahead, brave-cowardly, bright-dull, cold-hot, cool-warm, fast-slow, fat-thin, good-bad, happy-sad, warm-cold, heavy-light, here-there, huge-small, live-dead, long-short, lost-found, never-always, old-new, old-young, open-close, past-present, push-pull, quiet-noisy, quick-slow, rise-fall, true-false, under-over, useless-useful, full-empty, part-whole, etc...
Some of these polarities played a more foundational role than others in the refining of a narrative. For example “useful versus useless” helped to select what really matters in life and it helped to frame the field of peoples' daily lives as what are the only really useful preoccupations. This was pragmatism at its best. Part and whole played an equal role and so pragmatism, on one side, positioned the individual as being a minuscule particle within the universe and his environment while on the other side simultaneously relating him to all the other particles within his environment and entertaining the idea in his mind that all particles are interdependent.
Knowledge formation by groups exploded the realm of the perceived reality by growing the distance between the observing individual and the field of his perception and so the path of perception expanded in the direction of the whole. But the farther the individual perception reaches the more abstract his observations are and the more detached they become from his daily life considerations. This is how complexification operates. Complexification grows a distance between what is the contained field of daily life pragmatism and what is an ever expanding field of exploration.
In other words pragmatism privileges the field of the known while complexity is attracted by the understanding of the unknown.
2.3.2. Knowledge formation and acquisition of knowledge
Societies established systems of knowledge formation which had to be followed up by knowledge acquisition by the individuals. This distinction between societal knowledge formation and individual knowledge acquisition is seen at work within all societies from the earliest to the latest. Knowledge acquisition, by trying to get a hold of the complexity gained in knowledge formation, is what expanded the realm of the individual's consciousness. Since the dawn of time knowledge formation was in the hands of the men of knowledge who then initiated the transmission of their knowledge to their fellow citizens.
In tribal societies and later under empires the men of knowledge initiated a limited number of apprentices, in total secrecy, while spreading to all their fellow citizens a grand narrative of the diluted themes of the initiation. Under animism there was no distinction between different men of knowledge and each tribe had its own one. The men of knowledge nevertheless recognized some among then as being wiser than the others and they regularly recoursed to the advice of these sages. With the advent of power societies the men of knowledge divided into ranks that classified the level of their knowledge. The system of knowledge centralized along the lines of power and the ranks of the men of knowledge largely followed the ranks established by the men of power.
Animism and the early imperial philosophies (Taoism and Buddhism) distinguished between 3 levels of knowledge:
Beliefs under power societies, including Buddhism and Taoism, divided their men of knowledge into ranks largely copied on the hierarchy of the men of power and their knowledge was segmented in different hierarchical levels. Each sect or branch had its own classification system. While I have spent some time trying to understand the knowledge classification of different sects I never felt interested to submit to the learning system of any particular one of them. I'm not interested to plunge in any system and imprison my mind. I don't believe knowledge possibly resides within a closed system. I feel that knowledge has to be open to new acquisitions and new systematizations. In other words knowledge has to be able to adapt to changing contexts and closed systems by definition don't tolerate deviations; they are meant to conserve the status-quo. Being an accumulation of 'knowings', transmitted over the generations within the boundaries of a worldview, knowledge naturally forms a body of knowings that assimilate to a system. The necessity of the system's adaptability to new ways of understanding imposes on a knowledge system, at the least, to be an open system that can integrate change.
Having said that, it seems to me, that an open system of knowledge formation should also take responsibility for any new knowing. What I mean by this is that knowledge has to submit to the precautionary principle that establishes the necessity of conformity to a series of foundational principles:
To possibly satisfy this precautionary principle it is an imperative necessity that the different dimensions of knowledge are being integrated:
Consciousness is the integration by the mind of knowledge the individual has acquired as well as all its implications for the individual particles, their societies, their species and all the other species, the system that contains them all the earth and its neighborhood, etc... To put this in perspective consciousness implies that the mind is able to emit a qualitative judgment about knowings and that once it has emitted such a qualitative judgment it is willing to argue about the wisdom of such knowings. In other words consciousness acts in the same way as the side-rails of a bridge. The rails protect the individual from falling into the abyss. Consciousness protects the individuals and their societies from falling out of the domain of systemic reality.
2.3.3. Expanded complexity
Knowledge exploded the domain of the perceived reality and the realm of our perception expanded uninterruptedly. One would have hoped that this expansion stayed within the bounds of systemic reality but there is never a guarantee of that being so. Modernity demonstrated without ambiguity that knowledge formation can easily move out of the domain of systemic reality with the consequences that we are left to deplore in Late-Modernity. So expanded complexity is not necessarily a paragon of life enhancement. In other words complexity is neutral, it is nor good nor bad, and so it can eventually take malignant forms. This is why increases in complexity have to be kept within the bounds of systemic reality and more particularly they have to be accommodated to the necessity of ensuring the reproduction of the individuals and their societies, for without societies the individuals die and without individuals species go extinct. In the last instance the role of complexity is to push life a little bit further on the arrow of time. Increasing complexity is thus a life strategy participating in whatever it is that life is meant to achieve:
This idea that the local particles try to get to grips with what the whole is all about has been a fundamental quest since humanity emerged in self awareness. Life would have never emerged if beforehand the context did not contain all the necessary ingredients. The arrow of time unmistakably indicates that the universe is on the course of a qualitative direction that has nothing to do with randomness. If randomness were the rule of the game mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc... would have no application but the fact is that they apply and indicate that the course of the universe is ordered by rules and so we are driven back to the question we started with about the trajectory of the principle of life.
It is impossible to miss that life comes with a computation engine which expands into a primitive instinctual mind that engages a process starting with self awareness and leading to ever increasing levels of consciousness that project ever increasing levels of complexity. This cycle of life builds a gradation towards always more. For sure it has to conciliate this drive towards always more with the need of reproduction but what jumps to mind is that it is 'this always more' that gives its direction to the arrow of time and one can't thus avoid to question why 'this always more' and what is the outcome of the cycle of life. Seen the role played by an ever increasing consciousness in this whole process it is impossible to ignore the fact that what this increasing consciousness is reaching for is the whole-set that contains us; in other words it is the universe itself or better it is the knowledge or the consciousness of the universe that it strives to attain. Now if the parts strive to reach the whole what about the whole? Is it striving to reach its parts to enlighten them as it was the conviction of the animist men of knowledge?
The propensity of the mind of the human individual never to be satisfied and content with his condition was reinforced by the idea that knowledge increases the probability to gain pleasure over pain. Both, in unison, unleashed a never ending search for more knowledge that unleashed ever more complexity. The initial motivating idea was that knowledge increases the probability of experiencing pleasure over pain and it resulted in increasing the levels of consciousness of the men of knowledge.
Under animism it also increased the daily well-being of the common man (pragmatism). Under power societies knowledge became a tool of the men of power to maintain their control over the institutions of power. With power societies the target of knowledge morphed but the complexity continued to increase unabated at the service of the individualism of the men of power and their men of knowledge servants. This morphing was further aggravated with the emergence and rise of Modernity which bound the formation of knowledge to the reason at work within capital.
While the target of knowledge morphed its nature adapted to these new targets. We started initially with the idea that knowledge increases the probability for men to gain pleasure over pain. The morphing of its target under power societies reduced that scope to the satisfaction of the individualism of the men of power and Modernity reduced it further to the mechanical reason at work within capital. In this historical process the nature of knowledge which originally was to increase the probability for men to gain pleasure over pain has morphed into a mechanical principal to satisfy an abstraction and, as we'll see further down, that abstraction is unleashing a wave of complexity that distances humanity ever further from the other dimensions of the cycle of life with all the consequences we start to observe in Late-Modernity.
2.4. 'Increased Complexity' and ' Reproduction'
Reproduction is the primary factor at work in systemic reality. It concerns the reproduction of the individuals as well as the reproduction of their societal domain. If reproduction, for whatever reason, is not satisfied the consequence is very simple: the individuals die, their societies collapse, and the cycle of life of their species is eventually interrupted. Reproduction is the hard core first principle sustaining the systemic reality of the principle of life. There is no escaping it. In that sense it trumps increased complexity.
We just saw that in Modernity increased complexity has morphed under the action of the abstract mechanical principal at work within capital. As I stated here above that abstraction is unleashing a wave of complexity that detaches humanity from the other dimensions of the cycle of life and among them the necessity of reproduction that is the foundation of the systemic reality of life. The reproduction of a species originates in the reproduction of its individuals. But as we have seen the reproduction of the individuals is made feasible by their group or society and so the reproduction of societies appear to be the determinant factor in the reproduction of the individuals. The only logical conclusion from such a state of affairs is that Modernity is engaged in a one way street that has led humanity astray; far away from the cycle of life and as a consequence the collapse of modern societies appears the most likely outcome of Modernity.
But what are the dynamics, between the polarities of the principle of life - reproduction – increased complexity, indicating us?
Reproduction is the conservation principle in the cycle of life while increased complexity is the change principle that augurs of the possibility of advancing on the arrow of time. Reality is not staying still on the arrow of time. Through ups and downs it is evolving into more complex, more knowledgeable, more conscious and more beautiful forms. So reproduction and increased complexity are meant somehow to reconcile. But the evolution towards more “advanced” forms on the arrow of time does not mean that all forms make it that way. Many fall on the way-side and go extinct sanctioned by the principle of reproduction in the polarities of life. Those that succeed to reproduce:
The dynamics between the polarities of the principle of life, reproduction and increased complexity, appear to be the determinant parameter in the evolution of life:
The arrow of time contains the entirety of all evolutionary steps the principle of life went through. Now we have always to keep in mind that our DNA-RNA somehow contains the memory of life's evolutionary path. That means the memory of all forms that passed the test of the polarities of life as well as all forms that did not pass the test. This leads me to think that all the forms that passed the test appear as participating in patterns that are somehow discernible by our biology and the same can be said for the forms that did not pass the test. The patterns generated by successful evolutionary forms and those generated by unsuccessful forms constitute the information our biology, and computation engine, rely on in taking decisions relating to the preservation of the individual's life as well as their decisions when confronted to an evolutionary mutation. I can't stop thinking that these patterns representing successful evolutionary forms contain the substance of what humanity has been calling beauty since so long without ever being able to define what it exactly means. Now that implies that lines, forms, colors, sounds, smells, and so on… that we consider beautiful are somehow contained in the patterns of successful evolutionary forms while those that we consider ugly are somehow contained in the patterns of unsuccessful evolutionary forms. These patterns being stored in our DNA-RNA serve as our brains' background memory informing it about what works (beauty) and what does not work (ugliness) within our systemic reality. Our brains or other biological mechanisms, in all logic, are thus able to distinguish between beauty and ugliness and this information is somehow made available to the primitive mind from where it reaches our subconscious at least in condensed form. I'll come back more exhaustively to this question later on in part 5 in which I'll concentrate on the arts.
Another question that pops up at this juncture is how can a species maintain the levels of complexity of its cycle of life at levels that are compatible with its reproduction? In other words what are the mechanisms at play that control that compatibility? I have been examining here the arrows in the cycle of life that on my graph of life are presented as the black arrows. It seems to me that the answer to this essential question resides in the dynamics of the blue and red arrows that I'll examine now.
2.5. The brain and Increased Complexity
This chapter relates to the interactions between individual and species or:
A first possibility that the graph implies is that the level of increased complexity needs to be located within a probabilistic range that is computable by the brain in its context? If the level of complexity were out of the brain's computable range I suspect that the individual would end up being so confused and discouraged by the situation he lives in that he would lose any will or desire to reproduce in such a particular context. Now this looks suspiciously close to what we start to observe nowadays in Western countries and in Japan in particular where young people seem to think, with good reason, that their future is clouded by:
In such an environment it is understandable that a growing number of young people, and not only young people, would no longer feel the urge to continue reproducing and would even feel it is their moral duty to stop the chain of reproduction. Many scientists are starting to ring the bell on the real possibility of such a popular disaffection… but who listens?
A second possibility that the graph seems to imply is that the path to the whole emerging from the individuals' consciousness must be compatible with the probabilistic range that the brain can compute. What is implied here is more of a cultural gap between what the brain can compute as a possible path to the whole but that the mind can't fathom as acceptable any longer. This could also come to mean that the dream the mind generates about the path to the whole is not compatible any longer with the brain's computations. In other words we could be entering the age of a cultural shock between the dream of the mind that our computation engine and the systemic reality it relies on find incompatible.
This should not come as an overly strange hypothesis. It looks indeed strangely similar to what we observe happening in Western advanced societies: a disaffection with reality that is compensated by the virtuality promised by games or more generally by narratives. But a world based solely on narratives gradually supplies less and less goods and to hide the immensity of the lies these stories rely on they have to further and further detach from reality to keep the attention of the citizens. But then the elites who control the flow of lies are challenged by other elites who peddle their own narratives and so we enter into an unknown territory when all narratives become simply unbelievable. I think this is largely the condition the Western world has now reached in this phase of Late-Modernity. Nothing appears believable any longer and the citizenry has had enough of all the lies and trust in the institutions of power is at an all time low. What happens when the trust in the institutions of power and their political operatives is gone? The real decision makers, the capital holders, take what they think are the necessary measures to protect their interests and this invariably ends with the organization of false flag operations to instill irrational fear in peoples' minds to make palatable the promulgation of authoritarian answers to that fear. In Late-Modernity such authoritarian answers mean, for example, the purchase of peoples' votes through the financing of necessarily onerous elections, the propagandizing of the news, the systematic spying on the citizen, the militarization of police and lastly the eradication of all services and social policies... and finally the citizens end up being naked, resourceless, and frightened.
2.6. The Mind and Reproduction
A mind that acquires knowledge reaches a more complex understanding of reality and by the same token it is building a model of reality that integrates higher levels of complexity. The really interesting question here is if the mind will succeed to keep this rising complexity in check by confronting it to the systemic reality or if it will be taken for a ride in an abstraction of reality that detaches itself from the systemic reality?
To avoid any confusion let me restate that this systemic reality covers the system representing 'the whole' set that constitutes our universe. Within this set exist a multitude of sub-sets and each of them is being composed, in turn, by a myriad of sub-sub-sets. Each sub-sub-set is then further composed of sub-sub-sub-sets… and such a subsidiarization reaches to the domain of the microcosm. Our earth is such a sub-set and each living species is a sub-set of the set earth. In that sense we say that a sub-set is given a range of possibilities, and also a range of impossibilities, by the bigger sets it is a part of. This means that the domain of what is possible, for us humans for example, is something that is given or imposed to us by the bigger sets that contain us. Our freedom is thus forcibly limited to our acceptance that we are what we are; a small spec of animated matter, conscious eventually, but that is no more than a particle of something larger which itself is no more than a particle of something even larger.
There is no way to extract ourselves from our systemic reality. Life is the most sacred of principles inside that reality and life is regulated primarily by the principle of reproduction. Reproduction is the strong principle of life while complexity is its weak principle. Reproduction is strong for the simple reason that if reproduction does not occur life vanishes while complexity only affects the quality of life but not its existence.
The interrelation between the mind and reproduction is thus a matter of life and death. Life is all there is that counts and when life is gone all the rest appears as being nothingness. If the mind of the individual loses trace of the necessity to reproduce then as a consequence his gene pool will be lost. Nature avoided this by equipping the particles of its sub-sub-sub-sets with instinctual mechanisms that trick them to search for pleasure and so reproduction was always realized without the individual knowing anything about it.
But with the rise of consciousness the mind started to take care of functions that were regulated instinctively in earlier stages of evolution. This is when the mind starts to reserve the power to chose between life and nothingness. It is at this point that we discover the importance of how the mind handles complexity. Will the mind be taken on a ride by an abstraction or will it succeed to confront complexity with the systemic reality. If it is taken on a ride it could end up wasting the gene pool of its body while if it confronts complexity with systemic reality it is going to preserve its gene pool. But this presentation is more theoretical than practical. The facts show indeed that for most individuals the mind absorbs all the positions contained in the societal culture of the day as well as the worldview of society at large and as a result the near entirety of the individuals follow the flock.
The culture and worldview are overwhelming the minds of the individuals. Citizens share similar ways of doing and thinking with the people they love and the other people around them but in Late-Modernity this kind of belief system and worldview have vanished from the societal scene and as a result their minds are dis-quietening, their levels of anxiety are increasing, and lastly the gluing of all citizens together, as a group as a society, is coming apart. Sociologists and politologists say that the sharing of a worldview is like gluing the minds of the citizens and such a gluing has the effect to solidify societal cohesion which means that societies reproduce far easier. The fact that citizens are coming unglued means that their societies lose their cohesion and are engaged on a path to collapse.
The interrelations between 'the Mind and Reproduction' illustrate the essential role of worldviews in the reproduction of the individuals and their societies. With the collapse, by the end of Early-Modernity, of the role of the men of knowledge worldviews started to fragment and by Late-Modernity worldviews have atomized. That's when every individual believes he knows better than any one else about anything. That's when men of knowledge, scientists, and believers are confronting each other for gaining eyeballs on the level playing field of the market for ideas.
Societal fragmentation and atomization are amongst the most salient characteristics of Late-Modernity. State institutions lost the trust of the citizenry and even the trust between citizens completely vanished. As a consequence morality crashed. Empathy and cooperation began to feel alien and the air of the times definitely stinks. In such a context nobody should be surprised that corruption reaches everywhere, that cheating is rampant, and that the lives of the poor, the marginal, are considered trivial even to the courts of law.
Late-Modernity brews an atmosphere of general suspicion and of pessimism that pushes every individual to retreat inside himself. Today, in 'the advanced West' the atomization of the worldview expands to people's daily lives. There is no historical precedent of such a kind of societal reality. Late-Modernity is the first example of a societal atomization. We already know some of its consequences as observed in the West: decreasing rates of marriage, increasing rates of single mothers, increasing rates of millennials well in their thirties who continue to live with their parents, decreasing populations, the flight from real life into the virtual, and a general loss of empathy for other human beings. A trend is shaping that does not bode well at all for the future!
2.7. Consciousness and systemic reality
I have already mentioned the role of consciousness in the cycle of life. But the interplay between consciousness and systemic reality more fundamentally relates to how the individual positions himself inside reality.
Consciousness is an individual characteristic that results from the dance between the brain and the mind which are the polarities of the individual. Systemic reality is the global context wherein takes place the dance between reproduction and increased complexity which are the polarities of the principle of life. From this we can say that the conscious individuals are permanently testing the boundaries of systemic reality while adapting the levels of complexity to what systemic reality tolerates.
But we have seen that consciousness resides mostly in the minds of the men of knowledge while the large majority of citizens are subconsciously driven to follow the flock; so the men of knowledge are the ones who are really testing the boundaries of reality and history shows that they are ready to test these boundaries with the use of all kinds of hallucinogenic methods like the ingestion of mushrooms or plant mixtures that eventually bring them into a trance that illuminates their minds with the truth about the universal absolute reality.
But this brings us back to the observation that the men of knowledge vanished from the societal field sometime by the end of Early-Modernity (19th century?). What this implies is that, starting with High-Modernity and continuing in Late-Modernity, the boundaries of systemic reality are no longer being tested in 'advanced societies' with the direct consequence that the levels of increased complexity are no longer being adjusted to what reality can tolerate. In other words this could mean that increased complexity has shifted out of the domain of systemic reality. But this is putting things too mildly. The acceleration of change following the double revolution that a financialized globalization introduced in the 1970th, I mean:
Financialized globalization means that credit was used to pump up investments and total world levels of debts increased to reach over US$ 220 trillion by 2015 while the world's total GDP figures stand at US$78.28 trillion. This gives a ratio of world debt to world GDP of roughly 250% in 2015 but more interesting even is where this debt is concentrated. “In a comprehensive report on global indebtedness, economists at ING found that debt in developed economies amounted to $157 trillion, or 376% of their GDP. Emerging-market debt totaled $66.3 trillion at the end of last year, or 224% of their GDP.”(1) Such an exponential debt growth is unsustainable and total debt levels will have to be cleared. That means that we are going to experience a monetary reset that will liquidate the excessive levels of debts while destroying a good deal of the existing savings. This will plunge the world into a great depression from where the economic elites hope a new path to growth will emerge. But interestingly it is the developed economies that are going to feel the biggest pain. This could be considered a first example of an increased complexity that surpassed the absorption levels of the real economy. But this is not what I have in mind. The increase in credit I mentioned was largely ploughed in as:
This exponential increase in debt was feeding both consumer demand and the production of goods. Wallmarts, Carrefours and other big box super stores ended up monopolizing the distribution sector competing to offer the lowest prices that appeared also to be affordable by all. This not only targeted white goods and other electronic gadgets. Food, the indispensable product, became the target of capital that nearly monopolized its production in large factory-farms and industrial transformation units. The subsidization of corn plantations by the US federal government resulted in extremely cheap corn that agro-industries converted in their raw material of choice from which they extracted purified substances that entered the entire food chain and then the bodies of Western citizens in the form of fast foods, soft drinks, pre-cooked meals, snacks, etc… Instantaneously the rates of obesity shot up. The same happens in countries that started to import these industrial foods at a later date. Their rates of obesity and diabetes went up dramatically. Obesity is indeed often accompanied by sicknesses like diabetes and both reach epidemic proportions. The costs to treat these epidemics are staggering but governments and industrial lobbies do all they can to hide the responsibility of corn based extracts. Scientists nevertheless concur that all this corn chemistry is playing a determinant role in spreading these new epidemics. Involved in the process are the financial industry that issued the loans to manufacturers and consumers, the state institutions that subsidize agricultural production, the farm lobby, the export lobby, the chemical and agro-industries that refine and manufacture these industrial foods, and finally the distributors. A lot is at stake in term of employment, invested capital, and the system that is in place can not be removed with a magic stick nor replaced by a friendlier one. There is none other existing! It will take a lot of time for Western populations to eventually be served healthier foods.
This example of food production in the West illustrates how increased complexity can easily put humanity on a one way path that systemic reality sanctions with sickness and death. This also suggests that societies avoid the recourse to the precautionary principle at their own risks and perils. Other examples could have indicated that the risk imposed on us is a lot higher with societal collapse as an outcome and possibly the extinction of the human species. Climate change is the best known such example.
It is often in times of extreme urgency that humanity discovers where it went astray. The interplay between consciousness and systemic reality indicates without any possible doubt that the introduction of increased complexity in our societal systems has to be checked for its absorbability by humanity. If for whatever reason humanity can't exercise this precautionary principle our systemic reality will take care of it by sanctioning us. There is no escape route from systemic reality. It may leave us in the illusion for a certain time that we can do this or that but in the end it always comes back to re-balance any excess we may have engendered. Before High-Modernity change was operating at a slower pace and the levels of increased complexity were better manageable so the risks of divorcing consciousness-complexity from systemic reality were less likely. But this did nevertheless not spare some societies and most civilizations from the deadly consequences of an in-balance that resulted in their collapse.
So the question that should keep us awake is the following. What kind of mechanism has to be put in place, and at what level, so as to avoid a divorce between consciousness-complexity and systemic reality?
It seems to me that the answer lays partially in what I wrote in “2.3.2. Knowledge formation and acquisition of knowledge”:
I think this gives us a general framework to understand how things work but it does not answer the question how to apply such an understanding in daily life. We know from the get go that this can't be left to the domain of personal responsibility. To gain wide traction it should be put in execution by societies. But under what kind of a societal mechanism? This will constitute the substance of part 4 of this series of posts.
2.8. Conservation and change
This is the best known pair of opposites in politics; conservation (conservatism) versus change (progress) and as with all opposites they vie to fight it out to the death of one of the sides.
But reality is at once more subtle and more complex.
The interactions between conservation and change mirror the interactions between reproduction and increased complexity.
The principle of conservation is meant to ensure the necessity of reproduction, for, as I wrote in “2.4. Increased complexity and reproduction”: “If reproduction, for whatever reason, is not satisfied the consequence is very simple: the individuals die, their societies collapse, and the cycle of life of their species is eventually interrupted”. So we could say that the principle of conservation is a necessary societal attitude to ensure individual and societal reproduction.
The principle of change is meant to ensure the need of the set 'universe' for more complexity. The injection of complexity in life, and more particularly in the systems that sustain and ensure the reproduction of life, is what pushes life qualitatively further down the arrow of life. Complexity enriches. It adds new layers of substance over the original. In life complexity adds new layers to the brain that multiply its computational power which allow a species to enrich its communication systems and refine its societal organization. In other words we could say that the thirst for change is a societal attitude that fosters higher levels of societal organization which favors increases in individual consciousness.
Conservation and change in no way destroy each other. They represent 2 principles that are necessary to the cycle of life. Conservation is nevertheless the stronger one of them because it ensures the reproduction of life without which a species disappears. While necessary increased complexity does not embody the same urgent necessity as conservation. Life can do without or with low levels of increased complexity. The sole consequence would be to reduce the speed of change or eventually to bring societies to a standstill which is not mortal.
The ideal levels of conservation and change would be a combination that, for one, ensures the reproduction of the individuals and their societies within the boundaries of the lowest conservation denominator while allowing the highest increases of complexity pushing societies on a fast lane of change within the boundaries of what the individuals and their societies can safely live with. Such a balancing act is a matter of societal organization. But history shows that such a balancing act was most often realized by maximizing conservation and limiting change at the prize of slow motion societal change. Perhaps such a prize is necessary to ensure the reproduction of societies over the very long haul. Tribal societies were in extreme conservation mode. The societal was all there was while individualism was inexistent and as a consequence the tribal mode of society resisted for some one hundred thousand years. The longest surviving civilization, the Chinese, largely continued on the same path with extremely limited place for change and survived for some 5000 years till this very day. The little change that was allowed started a very slow evolution in societal arrangements and when China was confronted to, still primitive but individualist and adventurous, Europeans the consequence of such a slow change was to paralyze the Chinese in their resistance and as a result China was at a loss and suffered a few centuries of humiliation.
I'll elaborate more extensively on the mediating role of societies in part 4.
1. “Number of the Week: Total World Debt Load at 313% of GDP ” by Sudeep Reddy in The Wall Street Journal. May 11 2013.
Articles of interest during last month
- "The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History" by Tom Engelhardt , May 23 2013, in TomDispatch
- "Post-Modern Fragmentation" by Francis Heylighen in Principia Cybernetica.
- "Negative side-effects of Progressive Evolution" by Francis Heylighen in Principia Cybernetica.
- "The Breakdown of values" by Francis Heylighen in Principia Cybernetica.
- "World Order" Russian video, with English sub-titles, about the geo-political situation of the world.
- "Mussolini-Style Corporatism, aka Fascism, on the Rise in the US" November 3, 2015, in Naked Capitalism, by Yves Smith
- "The IMF Changes Its Rules to Isolate China and Russia" by Michael Hudson, December 21, 2015, in "A bird's eye view from the vineyard"
- "Silk Roads, Night Trains and the Third Industrial Revolution in China" by Pepe Escobar in The Vineyard of the Saker
- "A HYBRID WAR TO BREAK THE BALKANS?" by Andrew Korybko in The Vineyard of the Saker
- "Conversation with a Zombie" by Tom in naturalism.org
- "The Re-enserfment of Western Peoples" by Paul Craig Roberts. November 9, 2015, in Institute for Political Economy
- "Fourth Turning - Politicians Driving The World Towards War" by Jim Quinn in ZeroEdge , via The Burning Platform blog,
- " 13 fallacies of Steven Pinker’s 'The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”
by energyskeptic in Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge
- "The Long Peace is a Statistical Illusion" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 20 pages PDF, in fooled by randomness
- "Classification of Countries; see year 2025 forecast" by deagel.com (a must see)
- "Surenchères traditionalistes en terre d’islam" by Nabil Mouline in Le Monde Diplomatique March 2015
- "22 Stunning Pieces Of Evidence That Show The Middle Class In America Is Dying" by Michael Snyder, in The End of the American Dream, on December 10th, 2015
- "We are shrinking! The neglected drop in Gross Planet Product" by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, in Vox, 07 December 2015
"The West’s Alliance With Saudi Arabia Fuels Islamism" by Toby Matthiesen, in the NYT, December 8, 2015