john stewart

intro’d to John via Daniel Wahl fb share:

John describes evolution as a process of diversification and subsequent reintegration of the generated diversity at higher levels of complexity. He stresses that in every major evolutionary jump in the evolution of life this ‘reintegration at higher levels of complexity’ occurs through new ways of cooperating.

2 hour video – jul 2020 – ( – Exploring the role of cooperation in evolution – A conversation between John Stewart and Daniel Wahl

5 min – i came to intuition that evolution had to be everything.. but then i saw that in evolution science.. which i had grown to love.. there’s no room for intellectuality.. creativity.. big picture thinking.. it was narrow.. which i now call rationalistic mechanistic thinking.. thinking that can only understand those limited phenom in the world.. which happen to be able to be approximated by mechanical models.. when the greater part of reality is far to complex to be understood by mechanical models

6 min – the turning point.. which i didn’t learn until many years later.. was in the early 40s.. the great evolutionary scientists of the time had a series of meetings.. and they decided that to become a professional academic discipline they had to narrow down evolutionary science to mathematical/mechanical models..

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism/control/enclosure.. making us all like whales in sea world.. and so all our data/research .. non legit

we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

and they decided to use the iteratship (?) of journals to banish big picture thinking.. even though most of these guys were big picture thinkers.. so i’d say.. evolutionary bio put a gun to its head in 1940s and blew its brains out.. and they’re still in the shadow of that event today

7 min – so i decided i was vitally interested in the big picture.. intellectual creativity.. and therefore i should leave uni and not be an academic.. so.. all i do is not how i earn my money.. so i could have intellectual freedom.. can’t have it in academy/uni.. get intellectual freedom by finding an easy way to make sufficient money to live happily on .. and use spare time to do the thinking

we could do that differently now

imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..

what the world needs most is the energy of 8b alive people

then talked about never working w anyone on books.. then connecting w francis heylighen .. had him come and join him as formal affiliation.. gives me some status w/in academia.. but my main status is that i’m not in academia.. just published in journals..


d: i resonate.. i really felt that to really do the research i wanted to do i had to do outside academia

11 min – noam chomsky said the inside of major/modern corp is most totalitarian environ that’s every existed in history.. but i would say corps are trumped by academia.. academia depts are futile.. designed by a futile system.. not designed to reward/generate creativity and innovative thinking and so on

d: trying to understand why this pattern has evolved.. professor based 30-40 ideas based on research.. bright young student derails everything you’ve done.. in theory .. that’s how science goes.. in practice.. understandable that prof finds it hard to find they’ve spent 30 yrs barking up the wrong tree

sinclair perpetuation law et al

14 min – d: in your work you very clearly have models of coop that go beyond focus of competition as main driver..

15 min – that is the main thing of my work – cooperation in evolution.. group of coop can beat any individual..

beginning of life was the catalytic set that supported each other.. everyone in set was supported by at least one other.. stuart kaufman talks about getting order for free.. where snake eats own tail.. closing of set.. becomes self producing system.. can be at any level.. ie: econ systems.. where corp coops w/another and cycle is closed..


organism as fractal

18 min – human societies started off with kin groups.. to bans to tribes to agri societies then empires then nation states.. which are not biggest orgs on planet

21 min – d: that’s interesting.. because last 3 you named.. from my perspective.. aren’t entirely.. they’ve enabled a lot of amazing things to happen in human history.. but also at a point.. we started to create more competitive structures than coop structures

they aren’t organism as fractal

22 min – well that’s what drives the trajectory.. the most startling thing.. the first coops were less than a micron in diameter.. first little proto-cells.. increase in scale.. now can span a continent/planet.. so trend is startling.. the drive is the advantages of cooperation.. beating isolated entities.. so it is a dance between coop and competition

23 min – d: in one of your papers – you say ‘evolution functions by a pattern of diversification and subsequent reintegration of that diversity at higher levels of complexity.. in most situations that jump to that new level of org.. higher level of complexity.. is a new form of cooperation’.. i hadn’t really clicked on the scale of it.. actually grows in each step.. at each step larger coop orgs

25 min – cell governed by rna.. at every level.. coops form and the compete w one another.. that competition can be won by a larger scale coop formed out of those coops.. that’s what drives the process

wow.. this sounds so not like living organisms.. dancing

it sounds like how we describe coops today.. based on measuring/accounting and claiming to be alive..

26 min – the formation of a cooperative at a particular level only solves/exploits coop at that scale.. there are other advantages that can only be exploited at a yet larger scale.. where those coops can compete.. and that leaves unexploited coops at a higher level.. the important thing at any point in history.. the larger scale coops that exist compete w one another and from their pov that competition is destruction.. so when get tribes.. never was a period that tribal societies were like garden of eden.. it’s the harmonious coops w/in that compete

dang.. ugh

i guess i agree.. there never was one like the garden.. but i think that’s because we keep letting things like competition, intellect, (all the red flags) .. get in the way

so really .. you’re just going on about tragedy of the non common.. and calling that life..?

27 min – back to tribes.. using language that describes other tribes as subhuman.. so able to kill them.. till you get to larger tribes.. so that you get cooperation.. and still competition between those larger coop tribes

yeah.. ok.. but that’s not organism as fractal.. that’s whales in sea world as fractal

29 min – so when you talk about nation states.. the destructive competition between nation states is driving the destruction of civilization.. highly likely that civilization will end this century.. w/in nation states you can get some semblance of dealing w problems that can be housed w/in them.. biggest problem threatening world now are ones that extend beyond border of one nation state.. there’s no unilateral action that a nation state can take that will deal w that particular problem

wow.. i don’t thing that’s legit.. nation states can’t solve their own problems.. just band aids

30 min – i often wonder if concept of nation state is part of the evolutionary pathway.. very linked to divorce of human pattern from pattern that sustains life in a planetary process.. my sense is that one of blindspots of most evolutionary theory is that we still look.. you’re obviously not a genetic reductionist in dawkins type terms of looking at competition between selfish genes and all that.. but we still tend to look at evolution in a kind of speciesist way.. which is valid/useful and gives us lots of insights.. but i feel like there’s a complementary on the other side that really needs to look at life as a planetary process.. and the whole notion of nation state.. w borders.. in colonialism/competitive process.. we need to rematch our human patterns to the bio physical patterns of wider planetary life processes.. as the initial rough pattern.. we’ve divorced from bio.. many in academia .. believing culture/nature could be separated.. which i think is deluded

yeah that.. organism as fractal.. et al .. and i’d also let go of placating with the ‘valid/useful/insight’.. it’s just poisoned/blinded us.. to go to that border ness..

33 min – that brings up probably the most critically/important point that comes out of the evolutionary world view i’ve been developing.. and that is.. that at lower levels.. when you’ve had very large populations of coops competing.. most effective ones survive.. wiping out those that destroy local environ.. one way of saying it.. natural selection disciplines the behavior of those multi cellular coops

wow.. really daniel? am i hearing him right?

33 min – the problem we’ve got in the world today is that there are under i think 200 nation states.. there’s not a great turn over of nation states.. don’t have 1000 offspring that then compete and most effective nation states survive and so on.. so you don’t have that big disciplining that big feedback loop or anything else..

so.. you are agreeing w the tribes that some are subhuman..?

so what you’re pointing to.. this big mismatch between nation states and their effective persistence in environ in a way that is sustainable.. you point to that mismatch.. yes.. if natural selection was operating on populations of a million competing nation states.. it would sort all that out.. and only the nation states that weren’t mismatched would survive.. but that’s not happening.. there are only 200 nation states..

34 min – it gets far worse when take next step.. a global system.. there’s no population of global systems.. there’s only one.. so can’t have this continual experimentation.. which is only way nature is ever discovered.. to choose between complex systems..

oh my

and when i say.. the only way nature is discovered.. i’m including the human mind in that.. which is clearly a part of nature.. the human mind is incapable of understanding complexity in general and growing complex systems that have particular effects that are predictable and controllable and so on

complex systems aren’t predictable/controllable..

ok.. glancing back thru notes on designing regen cultures.. less surprised that this convo is happening..


35 min – d: in one of your papers you called it ‘consequence capture’.. if we want to create a global coop entity that gets us back to bio.. most patterns need to be at regional scale so feedback is quick enough.. then they would out compete the ones that draw too much on their bio region.. it’s almost like we’ve jumped to nation state scale .. in move toward globalization.. we’ve lost the local level redundancies that builds patterning of life .. the resilience .. into the system so that we can keep evolving.. is that..?

37 min – yeah.. consequence capture has to follow the principle of subsidiarity..

d: thumbs up

which you deal w issues at the most local level possible.. some issues can’t be dealt w except at global level (have impacts beyond borders of nation states)

what about global interconnectedness..? what wouldn’t have impacts beyond our man-made/violent borders?

global warming is the classic one.. needs system that reaches across nation states and coordinates across border and implements consequence capture..

38 min – so good segue – consequence capture i would argue.. applies at every level.. to produce coops that then evolve effectively as a coherent whole.. which means they develop agency/plans/actions on the outside world.. have to have mechs in place that ensure that actions at any level feed back or reflect back onto the entity the effects of its actions on a whole..

39 min – ie: humans.. if acted in any way had detrimental effect on environ.. punished.. or positive.. rewarded.. so there.. you and i would be wealthy..

42 min – so consequence capture.. is .. a world that works w/in the system.. people find that in best interest to help planet as a whole.. gets rewarded..

yeah.. but you’re enforcing that.. rather than trusting it.. so you’re just shooting yourself in the foot

in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

43 min – that orchestrates them.. so we don’t have to wait for everyone to be systems thinkers to understand what they need to do.. if we have to do that.. we’re finished..

so basically.. you think of all people (except maybe yourself?) as subhuman?

44 min – d: so how do we create such consequence capture quickly.. because i agree with you.. we can’t wait to have everybody at that enlightened (state).. that by serving others i serve myself..

that (global detox) would be quicker ..not to mention you’ll never get there with rewards/punishments.. we have evidence of that since history of man began.. no?

45 min – d: on indigenous and that golden past.. even if competing tribe against tribe.. the common understanding that they belonged to land.. they were stewards of bio processes..

46 min – tribes w taboos.. distinction between procedural (ride a bike – don’t know what they’re doing) and declarative (can put into words a model) knowledge.. emergence of sports science.. is emergence of procedural to declarative.. so tribes had procedural knowledge.. to people who wanta to hold these up (indigenous) .. teaching is declarative knowledge and indigenous don’t have that.. most systems thinking is constituted by mechanical models of systems.. that’s not systems thinking.. why hardly anyone understands what ie: gregory bateson says..

50 min – d: it’s not a going back to indigenous wisdom.. how many are truly unadulterated..

i’m saying that’s not the big problem.. the big problem is the wisdom was never in declarative knowledge.. but keep going..

51 min – my question is.. how do we create w/o having to get everybody up to.. why can’t we all think like gregory bateson.. we all should and then we’d be able to be a wiser species.. creating frameworks that allow for that consequence capture to be inbuilt into our human societies

wow.. that’s all we’ve been doing.. whales in sea world.. supposed to’s of school/work.. let’s try something diff .. let’s trust that we don’t want 8b gregory batesons.. but that we want 8b alive people.. trusting that if we are just alive.. that is enough.. for us to grok.. how to live/dance

let go

gershenfeld something else law

yeah.. that’s the challenge.. but to continue along w the bad news.. essential to understand if we’re to move to the other side of it.. going thru bad news.. markets.. hierarchy.. all important.. beginning tribes are a fantastic lab.. 1000s upon 1000s separated by valleys.. seeing how they were selected .. this whole evolutionary process that has been increasing cooperation on larger and larger scales..


54 min – everything to date produced by trial and error.. no human mind can understand.. all the things on this planet (and several others.. i can guarantee it)..

wow.. you can guarantee that.. but the rest of us can’t think in systems..?

not yet scrambled ness et al

proceeds to a certain point unconsciously thru experimentation.. then when it gets to point.. the processes that drove it unconsciously .. fail.. and the only way from here on in is consciously/intentionally thru declarative knowledge.. so that’s really bad news.. the good news is that it means humanity/individuals has enormous work to do on this planet.. once you see this bigger game that you’re embedded in.. you join in … gives you meaning/purpose..

56 min – biggest game.. evolutionary game.. we’re so lucky there’s an intentional role for us in that.. not that we go at it blindly (anymore) .. our role is to understand where it needs to go.. global consequence capture.. ie: climate; nuclear war; .. only a global system do that

57 min – so how do you do this magical consequence capture.. for individuals and the whole.. how do you introduce that.. and that’s very bad news.. it’s all done by power and hierarchy..

holy cow

59 min – to explore possibilities of global system .. have to be integratable

d: that’s speaks to me of what i’m searching for.. of not into individuals.. but from inclusionality.. an evolving unity

1:00 – this builds to that.. a whole bunch of potentialities that can’t integrate.. not catalyzed. . consequence (takes care of) free riders..

1:02 – rna was the governor of the cell

so governor is a whales in sea world


so that’s the whole story of demand and supply.. whole entity that can intro consequence capture and enable system rna governed system to self sustain..

wow.. that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing man

let go

1:03 – so rna manipulates in its own interests.. it enslaves them.. it intros consequence capture

holy cow

1:04 – d: but isn’t it.. i hear you and i agree with you but.. it goes both ways.. a mutualism rather than an enslavement

bigger picture ones see it as mutualism.. but not the mechanistic ones

1:08 – ie’s farming, market

d: do you need to still use the word dominant.. they’re not more powerful.. only there as long as what they’re doing enables growth.. see them more as enablers than dominators..

1:09 – they do have power over.. so that’s an essential part of it – if you lose sight of power relationship.. you lose sight of something essential.. so intro ing consequence capture you need global governance that is powerful.. disciplined by need to be effective.. govern and promote coop.. but doesn’t work w/o power and constraint (to constrain governance).. ie: magna carta (constrain king) and democracy (constrain governance)..when lose competition and selection as means to constrain.. need (others) all about power

oi – listen to rest..? or no

1:13 – d: if want to create global system w consequence capture.. need to redesign governance at local scale.. as long as local can regen bio at local level.. will have access to global

1:14 – i don’t use the term dominator.. i’m not that provocative.. i call it just management

oh my

1:18 – to believe humanity is separable from everything is a mental illness.. so consequence capture has to apply to the whole system.. so not humanity.. but global system..

then the really bad news.. look at whole thing.. ie: egg.. we need to use our yoke.. but need to build to next level where we don’t need it anymore

1:21 – d: like starship

d: problem we’ve had is old system is so resilient and keeps bouncing back.. when take jump to socio eco.. you bring dimension of foresight.. of awareness of what’s coming.. so can have evolutionary jump.. almost used up all the yoke .. so can establish global consequence capture..

1:24 – you and i agreeing we must do something has no effect on the world.. because you need consequence capture to incentivize invoke the action

red flags man – incentives et al

1:25 – natural selection creates consequence capture.. the cooperative adapting to environ and future events.. that’s what the global system.. which can’t be by procedural knowledge.. will be by linking up w/other planetary eggs/orgs..

1:26 – d: one way of enabling us to evolve into consequence capture in our planetary system.. easier to assume there are other planets w life.. than that we’re the only one..

1:27 – we need to see their insight.. that living context outside ourselves.. develop capacity to be able to act w one voice with them.. elsewhere in the universe.. haven’t seen it yet.. because like we don’t talk to embryos.. we’re sub planetary to them


1:29 – they’re systems thinkers.. these other planetary organisms.. because don’t get to this stage w/o that.. so they know only way we’ll develop is if we go thru these challenges.. .so they would be killing us to intervene

1:30 – back to the bad news.. the embryo..yoke.. on verge of hatching whole living system.. the chicken leaves behind the broken egg shell.. gunk.. scaffolding.. parts of system are scaffolding.. and they won’t come with us on journey

1:33 – d: role of tech in all this? i think we’re betting too much on tech

1:34 – my view is that there’s no imperative to maintain at all like it was 40 000 yrs ago.. integrates into a new system.. preservation isn’t part of that at all.. (the chicken is the whole thing.. not just humanity).. it won’t be humanity .. and won’t have humanity’s value.. but the super organism will look after humans..

1:37 – i can move in any direction that evolution demands me.. ie: i might have to become a traitor to australia to benefit the whole

1:38 – d: there are types in people rather than types of people

max potential of every human being.. highly intelligent will enable

1:44 – d: part of our problem has been we’ve been building this global system.. and local consequences.. and so feedback loops.. have been buffered

1:45 – our current system rewards bad behavior.. we can convince selves where we need to go.. but how to get there.. paper – strategies of evolution – addresses that – all revolutionary movements have failed.. self org ness – how do you break out of that dynamic..

1:47 – d: i spent a lot of time on regen at local scale.. whole systems design were not big enough to meet human needs.. we need to rebuild into relationship w the wider context.. keystone pieces of an ecosystem.. scale up and scale down at same time in order for us to get feedback quickly enough

1:49 – can’t predict future of complex systems.. i don’t go as far as that.. i say there are attractors.. you can predict that any planet that survives.. there will be global governance.. but detail of how to get there is unpredictable.. best you can do is set up systems that evolve in right direction.. no plan.. but systems that develop/evolve those plans.. so can’t work out what role tech will be.. et al

1:52 – d: large parts of our tech.. maybe are the egg shell

i’d say 90+% (techs) were just to make people happy.. and humans being happy won’t necessarily lead to super organism..




find/follow John:

His main interest is in the development of an evolutionary worldview that reveals to us who we are, and what we should be doing with our lives.  


the potential for humans to enhance their psychological capacities through the future evolution of consciousness.  

self-talk as data et al

He is the author of the internationally acclaimed book ‘Evolution’s Arrow: the direction of evolution and the future of humanity’.  More recently he has finalized ‘The Evolutionary Manifesto’ which outlines an evolutionary worldview and explores its relevance to humanity.  The Manifesto demonstrates the potential of the worldview to provide meaning and purpose for human existence, and uses it to identify the actions that we need to take if humanity is to fulfill its potential to contribute positively to the future evolution of life in the universe.

mufleh humanity lawwe have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity– Luma Mufleh