Where is Evolution Taking Us?

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consciousI see a big difference between having a word to label something, and truly understanding it. I can call this object in front of me a table, but I leave much to be understood. One place that this schism is especially apparent to me is in describing scientific phenomena. Consider evolution– we have some very sophisticated theories of how it has played out down to the molecular level, but does that mean we truly understand it’s purpose? Or even truly how it works?

    “When you don’t cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns.” –Eckhart Tolle

We painted a picture of evolution in school, which for many of us felt like a breath of fresh air after Adam and Eve. However for me at least, it still seems to fall short in terms of explaining the over-arching question of why. Why are we here? Why are we evolving? Essentially we are taught that every species is on its own little journey to survive and pass on DNA. That’s it. You’re here to have sex before you die! I’m reminded of the old economic paradigm which tells us that our purpose is to make money in order to consume goods… It makes sense within the context of a narrow discipline, but not in the context of our lives. For all our complex academia, is it possible that we’re missing something much more fundamental?

First of all, it’s becoming more widely understood that our evolutionary journey includes far more than just the human species. We are completely dependent upon plants, animals, and fungi to feed us, upon bacteria to help us digest food, upon the Earth to provide water and shelter for us, and upon the Sun to keep us warm. In truth, one could go on forever listing species upon which our survival (let alone our growth) is entirely reliant.

From our current biological perspective, a species is only as advanced as its ability to survive and reproduce. Intuitively, many of us recognize this logic, but feel there is more to the story. Perhaps that’s because what separates our species from the others on our planet isn’t exclusively biological. Maybe evolution isn’t either. Humans are not unique in their ability to thrive when dropped naked into a forest. In fact, we’re pretty bad at that. One of the things that separates us is our collective network of technology; we can conceptualize and materialize things to assist us that are VAST beyond any other species. Many anthropologists such as Amber Case are now making a convincing argument that modern humans have been gradually turning into cyborgs for generations now. Think about it. You move around largely with a car- not your legs. You are kept warm by a furnace, not your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. And your information recall comes from a computer at least as much as from your own memory.

As an interesting aside, this cyborg evolution has made us completely interdependent in a way that few other species are. As Leonard Read famously noted in his 1958 essay, “I, Pencil,” there is not one human on the face of the Earth that could construct a pencil from scratch. The person who designs pencils does not know how to process wood pulp or mine graphite, let alone build the equipment to do those things. When we consider products like cars and computers then, we see a need for inter-disciplinary cooperation that is truly mind blowing. We are utterly dependent upon the specialization of people all over the planet- few of whom we have even met- to maintain and advance our cyborg evolution. I am struck by the fact in this moment that much of what I consider “my intelligence,” was built in part by a man who knows how to operate logging equipment to cut the trees to provide the paper for the books I’ve read. In short, we are not simply evolving on an individual basis between generations. Our increasing ability to survive and pass on genetic information is enhanced every day by the work of people in literally every country on our planet.

As I look around at this cyber-like super-organism that our species has built I realize too that it is not simply our species that has built it. Far from it. Who provided the fuel to power the human brain? Not us, but plants, animals and fungi. So some credit is unquestionably belonging to them for the creation of- say- New York city. What’s more, credit is not simply due to the species that feed us, but also the species that inspire us. This includes beautiful plants, majestic animals, and without question, psychotropic metabolites.

Consider again the example of New York city. Can we pretend for a moment that coffee has not played an integral role in the construction of that empire? The person who invented elevators deserves some credit to be sure, but so does the plant that invented caffeine. What we think of as the “human empire,” is in reality a collaborative project by most every species on our planet. Our social dynamics are influenced largely by fermented grain- our artwork and philosophy by psychedelic fungi.

The fact of the matter is that evolution is not just an individual game. It is that, but at the same time it is just a much a team sport. As we exist today, some species are our allies, assisting us in pulling our chariot forward, while others seem to stand in our way. The conqueror mentality suggests that we simply barrel onward, and destroy whatever crosses our path. Today, with the threat of peak oil, “super bugs,” and dying oceans, just about every country is on the brink of revolution, and we are beginning to see that this approach simply doesn’t work. It can continue for a while, but it is a path leading to our own destruction as well as much of the life around us. The conservationist mentality says that we must slow down and go around when things get in our way. This is surely less destructive, but is it possible that there is an even better third option? Can we make friends of our foes? Can we, as an evolutionary movement, turn our relationship with our planet from parasitic to symbiotic?

To borrow our chariot analogy once more, would our journey not be much easier if we had more species pulling with us, rather than merely out of our way?

Finally, with all this talk regarding evolution and “forward progress,” we should take a moment and reconsider our initial question of what evolution really is. With each step forward we become more influential over our reality- due to the exponential growth in technology (or the law of attraction, whichever you prefer) the buffer time between us conceptualizing something, and our ability to manifest it before our eyes is getting shorter and shorter. People such as Ray Kurzweil see this trend and suggest that we are approaching a singularity where our ability to create whatever we can imagine is instantaneous. In a word, this is OMNIPOTENCE. At the same time that we are becoming more powerful, however, our understanding is also growing exponentially- each discovery building upon the last. Though this trend is more difficult to measure, its direction is clear. We are inching toward an ever-deepening understanding of everything. In a word, OMNISCIENCE. And finally, if the emotional undercurrent of our society is any indication, there is a very strong desire to treat life with more respect than we do. While those who disregard other species are more intense than ever, the desire to live harmoniously with our planet is not going away. In fact, I would suggest that its currently spreading like wildfire. If we dare to extrapolate this trend, we are forced to consider the possibility that this super-organism could very well be oscillating toward OMNI-BENEVOLENCE.

All-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful: conventionally, these are the three criteria comprising our definition of God.

For all our arrogance, there are few things which make humans more uncomfortable that accepting allegations of divinity. However all arrows seem to point toward that; the very force of evolution is an ascent from animal to deity- from thing to being. Humankind today could be deemed an awkward teenager somewhere between the two… but in my estimation, rapidly moving toward the latter.

Some might see this and feel alarm- that humanity is a force growing to rival God, an evil conglomerate attempting blasphemously to replace him. I don’t see it this way at all. I believe that omni-benevolence is a criteria of divinity not by chance. If you are not relating to everything around you symbiotically, then knowledge and power are ultimately a liability. In other words, if we don’t learn to play nice, we’re going to destroy ourselves. It’s a pretty self-limiting process. I suggest, therefore, that without equal growth in our ability to relate harmoniously, we will never reach full technical potential. Evolution is not a process of growing into rivalry with God. It is a process of merging with it.

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  1. annexi

    Super interesting article, thank you. For some time I have felt that as a human species we are reaching a point of collective capacity – we can go not much further with the world paradigms currently in place. The things that we are beginning to know and understand as individuals is driving a new collective consciouness that is vast in its scope with respect to the true oneness of everything. Play nice indeed, for what we to do to other we do to self; all is one.

  2. stephen

    Thank you for your insightful perspective on the human condition.

    Our interconnectedness to our natural environment has all but been lost in recent years,
    we’ve become highly specialised “cyborg” drones of the system that we have designed and implemented, in a paradigm so inter-dependent upon one another as specialists, so fragile, and yet still so dependent on the natural world that we are distanced from in a everyday lives that we have simply lost our appreciation and connection as a species,

    The natural world that we have plundered for our rather operant lifestyles, is very much depended upon each other as well for its continuation, break one link in the chain and normally another species takes over that position, but man has plundered the natural environment, so species of plants and other forms of life are disappearing at a frightening rate, simply because we have lost a connection and appreciation, that without our natural world, we ultimately will perish as well under a useless sea of man-made detritus, that’s pretty obvious if we continue this madness, with no possibility of recovery since we have lost our instincts to survive in the natural world once we’ve plundered everything, especially if that world is also depleted and we wouldn’t last a week without modern technology which has all been constructed with the aid of the planets natural finite resources,

    We have two paradigms working alongside at the same time on earth, the fragile natural world which has existed for at least 200 billion years, and a contrived man made existence, that has all but existed for approximately 12,000 years, both just as fragile as each other, and both so inter-dependent upon their respective paradigms,

    Unfortunately the human paradigm has become parasitic on the other, (the natural world) and basically is destroying it, at a ever increasing rate,
    I simply cannot see any future in the continuation of our human contrived existence, when we are destroying everything that supports us, even though it seems many of us seem to be totally unaware of this unfortunate situation, as we have it seems totally lost our affinity with our natural environment and also affinity with other lifeforms living alongside,
    and simply see them as a commodity to be used! to continue our rather destructive paradigm.

    I personally don’t think we are anywhere near the stage where we can contrive and manipulate our existence purely through our rather somewhat primitive thought process, as nature (or the one) has done in perpetuity….. Perhaps in a few million years time, man may contrive his existence simply by the power of his mind, if we haven’t annihilated ourselves before!

    I think the next hundred years will probably be a interesting time for humanity, concerning our continued development as a species.this will dictate what happens from there on.

  3. Christopher

    I thought this was really interesting until you dragged god into it. Why waste our time with such falseness?

  4. @chis, it’s funny you put it that way. I came upon the “god” concept completely inadvertently while considering the approach of technological singularity in the context of the need for a symbiotic relationship with our environment.
    I have no religious dogma that I am trying to work in whatsoever- I simply see those 3 conventional traits as inevitably emergent.
    Do you not see the same trends?

  5. G.O.D. –geometry of design. Good article.

  6. Very cool. Inspired a follow on blog – http://niche007.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/evolving-omni-presence/

  7. the divine truth and beauty is within us, we must translate into the outside world, understand it objectively and turn it within once again. merging nature and technology will bring us to the edge of humanity, and beyond, back into ourselves, we are becoming Transhuman.

  8. Stephen

    Yes; Transhumanism, the idea of creating intelligent artificial beings, proposed, for example, by roboticist Hans Moravec, the focus on the applications of technologies to the improvement of human bodies,
    Very much like cyborg drones (The Borg) where disconnected humans profess they can enhance nature by man-made appendages, like for instance ‘direct contact through the human brain’, to modern technology’s such as the Internet, or cyborg implants etc etc, So people can be controlled by E.g; ‘Central control’, and can be programmed by whatever means their masters wish for!

  9. Stephen
  10. Scientology is a scam made up by a nut in a navy psychiatric ward in Oakland, ca. You all are fools and are being scammed out of your money. You shouldn’t have to pay for knowledge or to move up in rank. Fuck L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.

  11. Eckhart is right – when you don’t cover it up with words the miraculous returns. It’s my belief that anything you describe with words is limited, and limited knowledge does not promote unlimited understanding.

  12. Kay

    Your referencing (or “words”) is of human ON Earth rather than Human OF Earth. Evolution of stardust into matter of increasing complexity could have us the stage of evolution that the universe is able to view itself. Anecdote- my autistic child’s first sentence forming was, “Mama, I know why I’m here. I’m how the world laughs.” I think Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme would agree.

  13. mergon

    Or look at it like we are all a unit of energy in a form ,like a pixel on a big screen, the pixels make up the image ,
    over time the pixels change and there is a different picture !


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