what is a human
(2020) by james paul gee
From the Back Cover:
In a sweeping synthesis of new research in a number of different disciplines, this book argues that we humans are not who we think we are.
As he explores the interconnections between cutting-edge work in bioanthropology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, human language and learning, and beyond, James Paul Gee advances, also, a personal philosophy of language, learning, and culture, informed by his decades of work across linguistics and the social sciences. Gee argues that our schools, institutions, legal systems, and societies are designed for creatures that do not exist, thus resulting in multiple, interacting crises, such as climate change, failing institutions, and the rise of nationalist nationalism.
hari rat park law et al
As Gee constructs an understanding of the human that takes into account our social, collective, and historical nature, *as established by recent research, he inspires readers to reflect for themselves on the very question of who we are―a key consideration for anyone interested in society, government, schools, health, activism, culture and diversity, or even just survival.
*am guessing not deep enough.. hope i’m wrong
After a nearly 50-year career as an academic, I retired on January 1, 2020. I did this not just because I got old, but because I profoundly lost faith in business as usual. As I went home, the rest of the world retired with me to their homes because of a long predicted pandemic that was one of many signs in the recent past that we humans need to get smarter, more moral, and become better problem solvers, and do so fast, if we are to survive as a species. I dedicate this book—partly personal, partly academic, partly a product of the Wild Hunt—to all my fellow humans who are as vexed by humans, themselves included, as I am and who want to reconnect with animals, the ground, and shared life before it is too late.
I have become intrigued by new discoveries about the inextricable links between human biology and human sociality.
gut ness et al
i have been equally impressed (as how stupid humans can be) by how stupid institutions can be and how they can continue in such stupidity even when everyone in them knows and talks about how stupid they are..
Yes, of course, humans have accomplished many impressive things. They build airplanes (but then use them to bomb people); they build massive bridges and levees (but often do not fix them until they fail and kill people); they have created antibiotics that have saved millions of lives (then overuse them and fatten their chickens and cattle with them and thereby create superbugs immune to medicine); they create cheap indus- trial food to feed everyone (but it kills their microbiome and makes them sick and fat); they offer universal education (yet many educated people don’t believe in evolution, many believe the ear
this is ridiculous ness
thinking we know anything
We seem often to feel good about ourselves only when we can feel better than others
the rich kids because their parents view them more as invest- ments than human beings. There is an epidemic of asthma among poor children because we dump all the pollution into their neighborhoods and so their immune systems are over-taxed and among rich children because the rich often keep their kids and their houses too clean and so their children’s immune systems are under-taxed, so to speak.
maté parenting law et al
After years of trying to figure out how people can communicate and learn in ways that might make themselves, each other, and the world a better place, I have come to see that we humans do not know what sort of creature we are. It is not surprising, then, that our schools, institutions, and societies often do not work well. They are all based on fallacious ideas about what sort of creature a human is.
We cannot make real progress—and will continue to do much damage—until we face squarely what humans are. You cannot keep a donkey happy and healthy if you do not know what sort of creature a donkey is and behave accordingly. The same goes for humans.
It is fortunate, indeed, that important new work in science emerged as I came to see that there would have been little point to my career if I did not, at last, try to answer the question “What is a human?”. New work in evolutionary biology is beginning to illuminate the nature of the human brain, body, and society—and, more generally, life as a whole— and, importantly, to show their deep and inextricable connections.
Of course, I do not know enough, nor does science yet know enough, to really answer the question “What is a human?”. We just know enough now to start asking the question and try to answer it honestly.
I ask the question “What is a human?” because I need to try to answer it before I leave. I do not pretend I have the definitive answer. What I hope is not that you accept my answer whole, but that my attempt inspires you to ask the question yourself. I genuinely believe that the world would be a better place if we humans knew and accepted ourselves for who we are.
fittingness et al
1 – terman
termites much like us in important ways.. few creatures (mole rats, ants, termites and bees) that can be quite social and collaborative in large groups but still retain a good deal of individual diff
maybe individual diff.. but we’ve lost our ability to be ourselves..
termite mound as ecosystem.. as living/breathing thing.. all for one one for all.. termite as ecosystem.. et al
organism as fractal ness
little terman reads/writes chemical signals (big terman is the mound)
The termites are part of a complex system that creates, sustains, defends, and re-creates dynamic order in and around the mound in the face of the ever-present threat of disorder (disorder is the final destination of everything, according to physics).
final destination? yeah i don’t know
Termites are blind. They go with the flow and respond adaptively, moment by moment, to changing circumstances.
They have “an aesthetic, an innate sense of how things should feel” (Marconelli 2018, p. 46) and where boundaries are arising, falling, sustaining, or changing.
They create dynamic pools of orderliness by acting locally in ways that give rise to emergent results across the mound and the environment. Like humans, they often go by the feeling in their gut, where most of their and our micro-organisms are.
true of humans too.. many people will say, “But aren’t termites (like ants) just little robots carrying out algo- rithms; little factory workers engaged in rote tasks of just the sort we could program robots (or nanobots) to do?”.. plenty of scientists thought this in the past..
When scientists actually looked at individual termites, they concluded that if the termites were real factory workers most of them would get a pink slip. Many of them run around seemingly aimlessly, while some make real progress on building and repairing things. About half of them in the mound simply do nothing.
ie: our findings
Here is a description of what some termites were doing for just a short stretch of time. Ask yourself whom (what other species) this reminds you of (Marconelli 2018, p. 151): ‘Termite Three was up to something. Termite Four did absolutely nothing; it didn’t even move. Termite Five played in the dirt. Termite Six ran with the other termites but didn’t carry a single dirt ball. Termite Seven ran around and around. Termite Eight picked up other termites’ balls [of mud] and moved them a few steps. Termite Nine ran in and out of the crowd but accomplished nothing.’
more on responses/resonances to all this on underbug page
Far from being robots, termites are idiosyncratic individuals and such individuals drive the whole system.
Termites don’t even have fixed intrinsic task assignments, except at a very high level of description like reproductives, workers, and soldiers. They change their behavior based on clues they get from the environment and from each other.
Some termites become “informed” (sense a “good idea” from local cues) and lead, though different ones can step up to the task depending on context.
i’d say for people.. rather than ‘become informed’ .. can hear their itch
sensing a good idea.. is killing us
The followers propagate to each other the directions of the leaders in ways that collectively strengthen and dampen signals from the leaders, much like a neural network. This system ensures they do not go off half-cocked following a leader with a really bad idea *(humans appear to lack this property).
What about all those slacker termites doing nothing? They are not really doing nothing. They are sitting on the bench (like in a basketballgame). Like any deep bench, they are ready to come into the game at any moment and take on the task that needs doing.
another diff.. i don’t think when we are seemingly doing nothing.. we are waiting to come into some game.. i think we are doing what needs to be done for the one big game/dance..
The termite mound (Big Termaning) is a constant interaction between emergent collectivity and idiosyncratic individuality. The two are not opposed; they are opposite sides of the same coin; they are part and parcel of Big Termaning.
Robots just won’t work when things get this complex and you need to survive in a tough world that seeks disorder while you seek order.
do we really seek order? i don’t know
thinking not yet scrambled ness et al
2 – humans
Some of the little creatures that compose our human microbiome also train (in our gut) our immune system cells to recognize what is “self” and what is a foreign invader (germ, parasite) that needs to be attacked and killed.
This is very odd indeed. Micro-animals that are not “us” train our immune systems to recognize “us” versus “not us”, but we dare not attack “them” because in a bigger sense they are indeed “us” (our teachers).
bush immune system law et al virus as message
“Our” and “their” cells are inextricably mixed and interacting, so it is all really “us” in a real sense.
Even our “human” cells (ones that do not belong to the zoo of tiny creatures in and on us) are composed of parts some of which did not start as “us”. .
We incorporate little creatures like bacteria, viruses, and fungi in three ways. 1\ Trillions live in and on us 2\ some carry out crucial tasks inside our cells. And, 3\ some long ago transferred genetic info of theirs into our DNA..
Humans are no more “just us” than are termites, though “us” is really an inclusive “we”, including our micro-organisms, and indeed, at any point in time, all the chemicals, particles, and sources of energy that are constantly and dynamically entering and leaving us and changing us continuously. We are legion.
All this “stuff” that swirls around in, on, and around us, in constant interaction, affects us moment by moment. The swirl affects how we feel, think, and act. However, by and large, we are not consciously unaware of these effects, though we feel them.
why we need a means to get back/to non hierarchical listening
we’re missing that dance.. because we no longer hear it
Like termites, this human swirl is best seen not as things, but as processes of processes interacting at small and large levels, ever changing, transforming, acting, reacting, and flowing. I, Jim, am not really a noun, but a verb. I am Jimming, a large process made up of a great many smaller processes. I, like you, am a happening.
We saw that termites have a mound. Do we humans have a mound?
For humans, there is certainly a mound. But it is, for us, more like smaller mounds within bigger mounds. Humans create mounds at many different levels of space and time.. humans have direct effects on much larger stretches of space than do termites ..
The concept of a mound is in reality the idea of the embeddedness, interconnectedness, and transactingness of living things (processes) in and with their environments.
ai humanity needs – augmenting interconnectedness
Like termites, we read physical, chemical, biological, and social signals from each other and from our environ- ments, signals that change us and, in turn, we use such signals to change others and our shared environments. And, again, not all, but most of this, is beyond our conscious knowledge.
but currently.. all that reading of signals.. is from whales in sea world..
And, finally, like termites, humans are both absolutely distinctive individuals and yet also wholly part of the collectivity of other humans, other living things, and the multiple mounds of which they are a part. It is all one integral big process of processes.
again.. we’ve messed this up.. none of us are ourselves/distinctive-individuals/fittingness
we need a means to get back to that
If you just look at “Jim” as a human isolate you are missing by far most of the action and your accounts (and, indeed, my own) are going to be, by and large, wrong.
again.. an even deeper wrong.. the dance is wrong.. so even if we could see jim not in isolate.. and even see him jimming.. it’s not be his legit idio ness.. it’s be a whales robot ness.. ie: black science of people/whales law et al
none of our data/whatever.. is legit today..
(on the complexity/vastness of the human brain)
Being socially formed and being idiosyncratic are not incompatible things.
maté basic needs ness
In fact, they both follow from the very nature of the human brain. We find patterns with the help (guidance, teaching, mentoring) of others as interacting social beings, but since we never share all our expe- riences with anyone else, we are never the same as anyone else.
i think we find patterns (if we need to) w/o guidance, teaching, mentoring.. aka: people telling other people what to do
Worrying about whether you are a social being or an individual, whether the collective or the individual is the most important thing, is a waste of time, and of paper if you are writing about it.
maté basic needs ness – deepest needs.. let’s focus on that.. let’s org (for seemingly disorderliness) around that
a good deal of the input from our brains about how to think about and feel in an experience and how to store it in ltm is not open to our conscious minds.. it just happens
Your theories, large and small, change with new experiences. People who cease to have and look for experiences with new and different people eventually stagnate. Their theories—and, in that sense, too, their brains—stultify, cease to grow in important ways, become less and less “true” in any meaningful and helpful sense. .. It is only by seeking new experiences with diverse people that our theories and our worldview can grow toward truth, though we never reach truth as a final destination, but seek it only as a journey.
ie: cure ios city
More signals go from the gut brain to the head brain than vice versa. The micro-organisms in and on us don’t call all the shots, but they sure call a lot of them.
These environments and their interactions with us can change our genetic information. This process is called epigenetics.
The old issue of whether genes trump environmental influences, or vice versa (the nature-nurture debate) is moot. Genes and our multiple, but integrated, connected, and mutually influencing environments are in a constant conversation reciprocally influencing each other from birth to death and from the beginning of the existence of human beings as a species to the end of “us” (which will come all the sooner if we do not quickly get “our” act together).
The conscious brain contains an Interpreter module that takes these unconscious “decisions” (with no access to how and why they were reached), and whatever conscious information and observations of the world you have available to you, and makes up a “good story” about why you feel, think, and act as you do. This story is often a form of compelling self-deception. The Interpreter makes up plausible or comforting stories that tell us “why” when we really do not know the whole story. The Interpreter is a confabulation device.
*confabulate: fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory.
Emotions often arise from our unconscious minds. We often become aware of our emotions only after unconscious perceptual systems have alerted our body (by agitating our body in certain ways) to pay attention to something that is important to our well-being in our current context and environment. Only then does the conscious mind seek to explain and account for our engaged bodily feelings. Emotions trigger cognition (thinking about how to name and explain why we feel as we do).
Emotion and cognition are, thus, integrally connected. Emotions tell us what we should and do care about, if we want to survive and flourish. Yet very often all we have consciously available to us (our Interpreter’s story) about our bodily agitations and concomitant emotions are possibly wrong interpretations of and untrue stories about how and why we are experiencing such things here and now.
However, even when these stories are untrue, they can still function to help us cope, though there are, of course, unhealthy forms of coping. In any case, both humans and cultures very often care a good deal more about coping than they do about truth.
The conscious mind also contains a part that “nags” us, that judges and comments on our thoughts, actions, emotions, and behaviors as we engage in them. This is the part of the mind that makes you feel bad when you have had that extra piece of pizza. This evaluative commen- tary system is extremely sensitive to social and cultural factors, including status. It is the part of us that keeps psychiatrists in business. Let’s call it the “Nag”.
yeah.. i don’t know..
we don’t know that
we don’t know that’s legit us
Finally, we also have what some have called the “Default System”. This part of the brain sets us “musing” when the head brain is not other- wise involved in goal-based activities. These musings are somewhat like dreams, and for many people (like me), they constitute a sort of near- constant “noise” from which they cannot easily escape into peace. We try to turn off our mind when we have finished doing things and want to be at peace, but it still spins on. This is why people meditate—to turn down the noise.
The unconscious part of the brain is the source of quick, intuitive, unconscious feeling, thinking, and acting. It is a form of “automatic pilot” that we trust in order to act quickly and effectively. The conscious part of our brain is the slow, “rational” part of the brain. Both parts are subject to a great many “brain bugs”.
The fast, unconscious part of our brain evolved to make good decisions when we existed as hunter-gatherers long ago. It is often ill-suited to modern conditions.
we’re ill suited for modern conditions..
The slow “rational” part of our brain is subject to a great many “errors” about logic and probability. This is so for three reasons. 1\ memory is very poor 2\ humans are not tropic to truth, but to “comfort” 3\ often value “belonging” and status more than truth/life
unsettles me.. doesn’t feel/sound right/legit
i think we’ve studied.. and so now are describing whales in sea world
We are not separate from—we are, in fact, porous to—our physical and social environments, even genetically, thanks to epigenetics. ..there are no real tight boundaries here. If there were tight boundaries, we would die. We are much more multi-level interacting processes than we are things.
homeostasis.. process whereby humans.. stability in the face of changing outside conditions.
body temp is one ie. .Homeostasis is an important concept, but it can mislead us by too much focus on clear insides and outsides.
What maintains relative coherence (a better word than stability) is the whole integrated Transacting Swarm with its many porous (just sort of) boundaries..What matters most is the whole system.
You are a Transacting Swarm (a complex system), a swirling swarm of different things (chemicals, cells, organs, your body) transacting with other Transacting Swarms (environments of different kinds and levels, including other humans) as part of bigger Transacting Swarms. You are processes of processes..
requires unique individuality and collective belonging. .. The collective you and the individual you are inseparable (unless you want to get sick and die). The logic of processes, flows, mixtures, and complex systems applies to humans, not the logic of discrete, countable, comparable, and well-bounded individuals.
You and your brain (parts of which are all over your body) are more complex than the universe. So, a teacher and a classroom of 25 kids, for example, is more complex many times over than the universe as a Transacting Swarm.
nah.. whales in sea world to the max.. very predictable..
The “you” that decides, acts, thinks, and feels is a Transacting Swarm, many parts of which are not open to your conscious knowledge and the workings of many parts of which are not yet known to science.
we don’t know.. we have no idea .. but we could find out
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..
3 – more than animals?
29 (now using actual book page numbers rather than pdf page numbers)
This issue is usually taken up by comparing humans and “higher” animals like primates, elephants, dolphins, and such. Yet, though termites are “lower” animals, we share a great deal with them, as we have seen. Maybe the things we share with termites are the most important things about us, though this would fit poorly with long-running philosophical and religious discussions of “man” (humans).
Concepts like superorganism, stigmergy, homeostasis, idiosyncratic individuality, the mound as memory and as a cognitive system, all of which (and more) are necessary to “truly” describe termites, are not reducible to simple material properties. They all involve emergent (“new”) properties stemming from the mound as a complex system of physical, organic, and chemical parts.
Such forms of emergence, when real complexity is involved, are never describable just by appeal to the parts out of which they came, nor are they ever just the sum of such parts. We need to appeal to the parts as a complex system with its own special properties at the system level, properties that do not exist lower down in the system as a simple sum of parts.
Take stigmergy as an example. Stigmergy is a system found in termites and other sort of creatures whereby these creatures manage to indirectly coordinate themselves and their actions through traces they leave on their environments. These traces (which are chemicals in the case of termites) are “meant” to be “read” by others as “directions” for what to do in working toward a common “goal”.
either beyond stigmergy or diff defn
The string of actions as a system, the indirect coordination achieved by the system, the nature of the termites as “agents”, and their “goals” do not exist in their heads. And they cannot be exhaustively described in terms of only physical, organic, and chemical parts.
Literally no one in the system knows what the system’s final product will be before it emerges.
We need to appeal to how the traces (notes) become “meaningful” to the humans and what “motivates” them to “follow the rules”.
yeah .. not that
..we find that both termites and humans are Transacting Swarms (of different types) that accomplish complex outcomes emergently (not by some single central intelligence calling all the shots).
if we are “more” than animals—then what this is cannot be discovered by making up words for “good” things (that we do not really understand), defining them to only apply to ourselves and declaring (a hollow) victory.
When we humans use the Interpreter part of our conscious mind, we often care less about truth, logic, and rationality than we do about comfort in the sense of feeling good about ourselves and alleviating our fears of suffering, pain, and death. Academics pretend humans are “rational” truth seekers, using logic, but in reality, humans are this only in very small part (even when they are being academics).
Consciousness is indeed a double-edged sword. When we got it (perhaps from eating from the Tree of Knowledge), we learned we could die, a truth that fills most people with dread when they are not reading self-help books or attending religious services. Once having learned that truth, we needed consciousness in the guise of the Interpreter to tell ourselves stories to alleviate our suffering and dread. Maybe it would have been better not to have gotten the “gift” of consciousness in the first place. It is certainly the apple that keeps giving us sustenance and heartache at the same time.
yeah.. intellect ness.. killing us
No one has satisfactorily explained why an all good God would allow a two-year-old to die or innocent people to be tortured and maimed given that God is all powerful and all good and so could have and should have prevented it.
because he didn’t want robots – garden-enough ness
Some say that God allows bad things to happen to ensure that people have free will, but this seems odd given that if God is all seeing, all knowing, and all powerful, he knows what choices people will make before they harm innocent others.
yeah.. letting people suffer because you don’t want robots (rule followers) .. hard core
experienced this in the lab..
Furthermore, the death of a two-year- old from a random accident seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with free will.
it’s all interconnected.. as you’ve been saying..
hari rat park law et al
The world is based on pain and suffering; it is a world where living things eat each other and compete to the death. Evolution can explain this, but not, as far as I can see, the existence of a God who is not all good, if “good” has any meaning recognizable to a good human being.
debate is a distraction
One way forward here is to ask what makes animals “intelligent” (meaning here, able to solve the problems they need to solve in order to survive and thrive).
imagining that solving problems in order to survive/thrive.. is not the point of human being..
i think we made that up
less/no problems that need things resembling what we define as intellect ness
For many animals, the answer to what in evolutionary terms drove their distinctive form of intelligence was the need to get food in environments where food was scarce or otherwise hard to get. For animals that get their food by cooperating with others (animals who are social), the need for social skills drove intelligence in different, perhaps yet “higher” ways in some sense.
It is odd that humans have the intelligence they do given the fact that they seemed to have evolved in food-rich environments. Animals living in such environments do not need “high” intelligence (since their basic problem—getting food—is not a tough problem, though they still need to avoid being food). However, for whatever reason, our ancestors left the jungle and entered savannas where food was scarcer and harder to get. We used our growing social skills to hunt and live co-operatively, and, thus, our intelligence was driven by the need for these social skills.
The octopus tells us that if we really want to know what it means to be human, we should look for the big problem that humans needed to solve. It was not how to disguise themselves as it was for octopuses. But then what was it? Once they had developed social skills fit for cooperation and survival, like ants and chimpanzees, why didn’t they just stop there?
Why did they become the sorts of creatures who worry about whether and how they are “more” or “better” than other animals? It seems their problem was not just getting social enough to survive. It was that, but it was also something more.
getting social enough to survive .. not the problem.. getting back our missing pieces.. that’s the deeper problem we need to solve (and today we can)
but it’s not a problem for a healthy ecosystem.. we just need to solve it because we’re in such a mess..
and it would be great if we could solve it with a means that also keeps this mess from coming back.. means we have to get to the root
4 – human-made monsters
Scholars ever since Aristotle, including Darwin, have argued that humans are not like wild animals but like domesticated ones. Domesticated animals (such as dogs, cats, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and many more) are bred by humans to be less aggressive than their wild versions (e.g., a wolf ). This sort of breeding leads domesticated animals to have a whole suite of traits in common. *The most important of these traits, aside from less aggression, are smaller bodies, shorter faces (projecting less forward), smaller brains (that are, however, no worse at problem-solving), and males who are less exaggeratedly male, and thus more like females.
There are other traits, as well, but all of them are a result of “juvenilization”. Domestic animals resemble juvenile versions of the wild animals from which they came.
if only we could get back to that.. ie: not yet scrambled ness
perhaps via 1 yr to be 5 ness
One problem we face when we claim that humans are domesticated animals is that no one bred them in the way humans have bred other domesticated animals
There are two species of chimpanzees, the ones we normally see and can just call chimpanzees and another species called bonobos. Bonobos share all the domestication traits we have discussed. They appear to be domesticated in much the same way as we humans are. Yet, of course, no one bred them to be domesticated either.
So how did bonobos and humans become domesticated? In the case of bonobos, the cause seems to be that, in bonobos, females always band together to forestall and punish any male aggression. Over many generations, this practice has led to less aggressive males and domestication traits in the species. No such thing happens in the case of chimpanzees where males (who are much larger than females) are very aggressive toward other males and dominate females via violence. In bonobos, females are about the same size as males and dominate them.
What domesticated humans? We already have talked about aggression, but there are two forms of aggression. There is reactive aggression (lashing out) where someone responds with anger and aggression quickly without prior thought and planning. Such quick aggression is the product of our “fast mind”, the part of us that acts quickly on the basis of largely unconscious feelings and processes. There is also planned (thought out) aggression. In this case, humans bide their time and plan out their hostile behavior. Such aggression is the product of our “slow mind”, the part of us that acts (partly) on the basis of conscious reflection.
1\ aggression et al is because we’re missing pieces
2\ domesticate ness is symptom.. a band aid we’ve tried (and apparently use for explaining us)
However, planned aggression takes on a whole new dimension in humans because we have language and expanded consciousness. Humans can plot, plan, deceive, and scheme better than any other animals.
Bonobos have reduced reactive aggression, and they are not very adept at planned aggression. Planned aggression at its best requires language.
Humans appear to have reduced reactive aggression when they were hunters and gatherers.
history ness is killing us.. keeping us from us
we have no idea what legit free human beings are like
The process of self-domestication (whereby humans grouped together to eradicate a good many males quick to anger) led to two results. First, the use of language and group violence to enforce group norms led to people being relatively docile in the face of group authority. Being shunned or even killed was a serious consequence for a lack of loyalty to group norms.
Second, the very power of language and group enforcement led humans eventually to be very good at planned aggression and subordination for their own interests and power. The very power that domesticated us as a species (a group collaborating to enforce norms on unruly individuals) became a super-power for groups (“leaders”) to dominate and sometimes oppress others.
sometimes oppress others?
marsh label law et al ..
unruly individuals – tragedy of the non common ness.. whales do that not legit free people
Here arises one of the deepest problems large human groups have now long faced: How can a “citizen” know when the “authority” of the group (later the state) is being used for prosocial good or for selfish ends on the part of the powerful? Let’s call this the “social trust problem”. People in a large group or state are prone to docility in the face of authority, but when they lose trust that authority is applied fairly, the group or state is in peril or is forced to respond yet more brutally.
today we have a means org 8b of us.. in legit freedom
let’s do that
ie: 2 conversations
The social trust problem became much more problematic when humans settled in villages, towns, and cities to engage in agriculture on a larger scale than they had ever done before. The change, I will argue, led us from being domesticated (albeit with a growing problem of “insiders” pursuing their own interests) to being monsters.
Imagine we did this for many generations of goats, breeding only the goats that survived this very un-goat-like environment.
After a time, we would end up with creatures that were not much like the goats I know on my farm. My goats are healthy, happy, prancing and..
We would have changed goat nature, because we would have radically changed the environment to which goats needed to adjust in order to survive.
This mad science is just what we humans have done to ourselves, no mad scientist needed. Once humans stopped being egalitarian hunter- gatherers and settled into larger villages, towns, cities, and states (starting with settled agriculture), inequality and domination by elites greatly increased. So did stress, anxiety, and feelings of unfairness.
yeah.. before that..
it wasn’t the large space and agri (those are symptoms)
we’re spinning our wheels if we keep saying we’re getting to the root.. but we’re just going back further in time.. et al
We have no real idea what “human nature” was like in the long past, since we have so long carried out on ourselves this mad scheme of making ourselves live and breed among high inequality and large doses of domination (and pollution).
agree.. but i don’t know if our legit human nature has ever been seen/modeled/practiced
so we really don’t have any idea
Humans today are, and have long been, *“human-made monster humans”. We bred humans who survived oppression, domina- tion, exploitation, hatred, anxiety, racism, elitism, classicism, schooling, toxic food and environments, and many other such things. The question is whether there are any “just humans” still alive and the answer is almost certainly no.
Being “human-made” might sound good to some humans (they will mistake it for “self-made”). Domestic animals are usually gentler and kinder compared to their undomesticated ancestors. But our human- made goats would be monsters in comparison with even wild animals.
Environments Transform Humans
yeah.. let’s use that info to our advantage ie: hari rat park law
combined with the whole interconnectedness thing.. aka: it has to be all of us or it won’t work
Drugs are powerful enough to massively change people by changing their very chemistry as Transacting Swarms. Doctors regularly use chemicals to “adjust” people who are mentally ill, changing them in different ways as they vary their drugs.
gotta go way deeper than drugs/addictions to get to better environ
Since we can change people by changing their chemistry (which in turn changes the other elements in their Trans- acting Swarm), we can ask “Which variation is the ‘real’ person?” Which of the many variations chemicals can elicit from a human, ranging from saint to devil and everywhere in-between, is the person? Is there any person at all beyond a chemical bath of swarming stuff? Even if a person takes no drugs, their internal chemistry, and the chemicals all around them and interacting with them, vary across time, sometimes in ways big enough to radically change (or, of course, even kill) them.
missing the (in fact your) bigger idea of interconnectedness and embodiment.. let’s focus on an ecosystem deeper than you describe here
today we can get back/to that
As a result, it is hard to compare us with our long-ago ancestors, who lived in a very different environment, let alone imagine our future selves who may live in a yet more drastically changed environment.
and it’s not even beneficial..
again.. thinking ancestors were whales as well..
It seems impossible to say which form or variation of any human, stemming from which sorts of environments, is the “real” person, is the person him- or herself. Perhaps we could try to determine a default envi- ronment in which humans are “truly” human, “truly” themselves.
yeah.. let’s do that..
that’s what we focused on
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
But humans have, from their origins, lived in and been genetically affected by so many different environments that the task would be impossible.
not impossible if we are quiet enough to see/hear
In any case, it is entirely unlikely we would be able to create this default environment should we discover it, given the current state of the world, a world perhaps near its end of tolerance for humans as a species.
again.. not unlikely/impossible..
We are what we are in part because of where we were born into a society and where we stand in the society at any given time of life.
this is why we desperately need a means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature.. all our listening (even to bodies) is blocked because of this hierarchy ness
The problem is that people don’t agree what attribute makes for a “good life”; they feel differently about the matter depending on where they stand in a society; and these attributes do not necessarily correlate with each other.
There is no “essential” you or me.
yeah.. there is (that’s why the death of a 2 yr old matters)
we need all of us to be essentially us ie: one ness.. each part matters
We have formed a truth by the consultation and concurrence of our five senses; but perhaps we needed the agreement of eight or ten senses, and their contribution, to perceive it certainly and in its essence. (p. 129)
not yet scrambled ness
5 – conclusion to part 1
Humans are significantly different from all other animals in that they are “human-made monsters”. No other animals have made their species into X-made monsters. They just let evolution take its course. Humans took matters into their own hands and, by the looks of things in our current world, have made a fine mess of it and of themselves.
but other species are involved (interconnected to) in our x made monster ness.. so they’re not themselves either
It won’t do for philosophers to tell us that the conscious brain can be rigorously trained to respect truth, think rationally, and make fine moral distinctions. Most humans do not do any of these things most of the time and even philosophers, for the most part, only do them as their day job (if at all).
not trained.. for sure not trained (that’s what got us here)
We must confront the fact that if humans are human-made monsters, we need to know how they created and continue this state of affairs even though it appears bad for their health and even for the survival of the human species (and most other species on earth).
6 – fetishes
We now have to answer the question, “How did humans make them- selves into human-made monsters and why do they continue this mad experiment?” Earlier I argued that once humans settled into larger-scale societies the power of elites to use language to motivate, plan, and scheme, often for their own benefit and not society’s as a whole, really came into its own. This led to a world where very often a small group dominated a much larger one and where many people feel their society is corrupt and unfair.
A fetish is an unreal version of something else for which it “stands in” (takes its place) and is imagined to have some properties and powers of the real thing or to have power over the real thing thanks to the imag- ined shared properties or connections between the fetish and the thing it stands in for. The fetish can be living, dead, or an object (it can even be an activity). The fetish takes on a life of its own and can come to be seen as sacred, magical, taboo, or dangerous.
The hypothesis I want to explore is this: While the baby monkeys (wire monkey w and w/o cloth) did not make the full trip to a fetish, at some point in history humans did
These questions and more are the basis of folkloric, religious, scientific, philosophical, and magical thinking that humans have become so adept at for thousands of years now.. it is clear that long-ago humans learned how to use one thing to stand for another and came to believe the “stand in” had certain powers over the thing or the sort of thing it stood for.
7 – examples of fetishes
Humans are surrounded by fetishes and fetishizing is in our blood.
i don’t think it’s in our blood
The fetish always starts with replacement. .Eventually, humans take matters too far, things get crazy, and we enter the realm of magic (and magical thinking).
Take grades in school as an example. Grades are numbers that are meant to correlate with or tell us something about development at one time and across time, but they are not meant to replace development. . But over time, people—teachers, students, families, policy makers, and even some psychometricians—take the grade to be an acceptable replacement for development. A good stand-in.
the issue isn’t so much the grades (that’s a dangerous bandaid/symptom for human being) but that we think we have to have development
The grade eventually comes to have magical properties, one of which is this recreation of humans as letters or numbers. Grades “get us into college” (along with other numbers). They are a “record” of “us”. They or other numbers follow us through life as if they were our body parts. They order us and our relationships to others in school and society. They create our expectations. They infect our families who go into a hyper-drive of praise, worry, or even abuse when grades arrive.
I met with students to tell them that the grade was more a requirement of a system than a very good indicator of progress, certainly not nearly as good as what I could tell them in words, having been their teacher face to face over time.
we have to let go of any form of people telling other people what to do.. or how they’re progressing et al
Money is another fetish. Money did not start that way of course.
It started when people traded things for things, say a chicken for a pumpkin.
marsh exchange law et al
Eventually, money (which was never a real chicken or pumpkin) takes on magical properties. Storing it up and not spending it makes you a certain type of person, a “rich person”. A “rich person” is different in kind from “poor people” who are not “good with money”, perhaps because of their “bad character”. The poor person becomes a new type of person, a “bad character”, suspect, lazy, not to be trusted, and to be helped only on terms the rich dictate, because “those people” are not “responsible” and need to learn to “stand on their own two feet” (no matter how many times we knock them down).
The rich are “smart”; they “earned it”; .. Working for a wage becomes “earning your living” (your life, your right to live).
earn a living ness
For the rich, children become investments that can bring their parents status when they graduate from Harvard and become hedge fund managers.
maté parenting law et al
Accumulating money becomes what some call their “work” or even their “vocation”.
Humans are particularly prone to fetishize membership.
marsh label law et al
resource list: the divide
8 – doubling fetishes
Doubling fetishes are very ancient in human history and had profound consequences in making humans what we are today. Perhaps the best example—and one of the oldest examples—of a doubling fetish is the shaman
Under the shaman’s mentoring, the patient learns how to heal or solve his or her problems..
The shaman, when being a shaman, has doubled himself to create a fetish out of his own body and to infuse it with special powers. It is as if he has turned his own body into a sort of voodoo doll..
with doubling fetishes humans make themselves fetishes.
Myths, religions, and ancestral stories allow even everyday people with no shamanistic powers to be doublers. For example, the Old Testament allowed Jewish people to see their mundane selves as re-enacting the deeds of their ancient forebears and ancestors. ..People “stood in” for the ancestors and carried their story forward…power to keep the dead alive (heritage, tradition, culture).
We have answered the question “What is a human?” The answer is: We humans are “human-made monsters”. And we have answered the question “What makes humans different than animals?” The answer is: In addition to a microbiome, we have a spirtome. We probably have shamans to thank for this, though we do not yet know what gave rise to shamans.
Does having a spirtome make humans better or higher than animals? This partly depends on how happy you are to have one and how unhappy a pig or donkey is made by not having one. It is a mixed blessing at best and a curse at worst, not least for the other animals we savage (save animals like rats and cockroaches who make their livings off of us) and the earth.
Shamanism is at the very origin of religion for humans, since it was a response to the spirits humans began to conceive and fear.
At the time Homo Sapiens arose as a species, they lived on earth with other human species, the best known of which were the Neanderthals. Homo Sapiens, perhaps due to relatively small genetic changes in their brain (Berwick and Chomsky 2017), acquired language as we know it, language grammatically equipped for talk not just about the here and now, but about the past, future, and things that don’t or might or might not exist. We acquired this form of language at the same time we began to domesticate ourselves.
The shaman shows us that, starting at the very origin of our species, language as deeply symbolic and magical (not just referential to a mundane world); things (e.g., a tree or cave) as symbols; domestication; spirits and religion; and human-style consciousness all arose together, both the result of and the cause of a “vivid imagination”. In the act, humans discovered that imagination is real and has real effects on the body and the world.
9 – the imaginarium
There is an alternative theory in evolutionary biology about what drove human “intelligence”. This theory focuses not on fetishes and doubling, but on the evolutionarily developed ability to lie.
It is clear that if any one creature in a group learns to lie, it will give that creature great power to manipulate all the others in the group who cannot lie or tell a lie from the truth. Sooner or later, for survival, others in the group will also have to learn to lie to compete with the original liar. Then evolution will favor better liars and creatures good at catching liars at their lie. ..Finally, the best liars of all evolve, namely creatures that believe their own lies, self-deceivers. This is certainly us, we humans. Self-deception is one of our superpowers.
If a creature can lie, then the very act could easily bring about the ability to picture and compare in the mind something that is real and something that is not. It will readily bring about the ability to be aware of the differences between intention (to deceive) and interpretation (false belief on the part of the deceived). It could also bring about ideas about what is in people’s “heads” and what the relationship is between what is in the head and what is “out there” in the world. With lying, we are on our way, with a bit of further evolutionary help here and there, to the whole human world of ideas; things inside and outside the mind; conceptions and misconceptions; the real and the unreal; reality and fantasy; the true and the false; and possibilities and impossibilities.
It is clear, I believe, that fetishes and lies are in the same family. .. fetishes told humans a great deal about whole realms that are worth imagining, dreaming up, bringing into existence, hoping and lying for, and dreading.
Lies, fetishes, and doubling built human imagination.
We entered the realm of fantasy and the merging, mixing, and matching of fantasy and reality in our heads and in our rituals and practices. Indeed, the border between the two, between fantasy and reality, became porous and shifting.
The human mind learned to travel across space and time and across the very limits of reality as sensed. It learned to question what is real; to fear what may or may not be real; to hope for what may or may not come; and to conjure up and sometimes even bring fantasies into reality.
A memory is .. a form of learning.
Humans, thanks to lies, fetishes, and doubling, cannot just form memories, they can also make up stuff in their own heads that they never experienced or even could experience. This is the nature of fantasy and the human imagination. Once humans got this capacity, they could not only recall old memories to remind them what to do or avoid, they could make up imagined scenarios (images, scenes, sequences, plots, stories) that could allow them to try things out in their head; reflect on possibilities; make plans for the future; think (imagine) before they act; reconceive their memories based on new information; and worry themselves sick over all the ways one can suffer and die.
we create an Imaginarium wherein all sorts of novel, odd, helpful, and frightening creatures and unexperienced experiences live. And, in turn, humans can become unsure what was in our imagination, our dreams, media, or reality.
Bene, on the other hand, is not worried about being a “real cat” or a “good animal”. She already is both and so just gets on with it. And then we humans—not me, of course—think this means she is less than us. She is less (or, maybe, really more) in one way though: She is not haunted.
um.. weird chapter
but i do believe we spend our time thinking about things we wouldn’t if we were legit free
10 – the conscious brain
The conscious part of the brain contains six systems. One is the Interpreter.. First, we have no conscious access to a great deal of what goes on in our unconscious.. Second..humans are not tropic to truth.
this book is so heavy on brain ness.. which i don’t think humans are
Besides, the Interpreter and the Imaginarium, the conscious mind also contains parts that we use to nag ourselves to death, ..constantly evaluates and judges us, most often negatively.. rooted in social and cultural conventions and stories. It is the inner voice of our families, social groups, societies, and cultures judging us, condemning us, and making us feel guilty.
The Nag is based on human beings’ profound need to belong, to be part of social groups, to be accepted and matter to others, to feel that what they do matters to others. This is probably the deepest need in humans—undoubtedly part of our very genetics—because we are special types of needy herd animals.
need both.. simultaneous
Outside the Interpreter, the Imaginarium, and the Nag, the conscious mind includes .. the Rational Mind. It is a weak feature, full of bugs. It is encouraged by education, often without much success, and sometimes with disastrous results when it produces emotionless intellectual zombies or self-serving fanatics with a favored “theoretical” axe to grind.
..this rational capacity can lead to science at its best (though much of science is often not nearly at its best). Otherwise, left to its own devices, rationality readily runs off the rails.
There is another system in the brain that is partly conscious and partly unconscious. This is what I will call the Appraising Brain. This is the part of the brain that helps us, not to judge ourselves (i.e., the Nag’s job), but to judge the “right” thing to do.
i don’t think any of this is natural..
i think we’re (if legit free/human) more like how you described bene.. this is all irrelevant
yet.. we spend all our time/energy on it now.. even in a book (that i thought was) about not doing that
Humans without thinking consciously often know what feels right and wrong as they move through space and interact with other people. Moment by moment, we automatically adjust our postures, movements, actions, and interactions to “feel right” and change them if they do not. I will call this capacity the Automatic Appraiser. (then talks of conscious appraiser)
i think that is too reactionary for human being ness
maybe title of book should be.. what we think we know about the human brain..?
The final part of the conscious mind is sometimes called the Default System. We will call it the Musing System. When humans are not occupied in any activity, their brain does not turn off. It just muses, daydreams, and associates, sometimes right at the border of conscious- ness. The process is similar to dreaming, though our musings can keep us from falling asleep at night because we cannot “empty our mind” and our musings trigger all sorts of emotions, fears, hopes, and unconscious processes.
It is interesting that recent work on the brain has argued that the Default System is actually crucial to all mental simulations we build and, thus, that the Default System and the Imaginarium are closely related, maybe even the same things (Barrett 2017). Perhaps, the Default System is simply how the Imaginarium operated when we are not directly occupied with *actions and goals.
*and words.. all the words.. explanations.. et al
not yet scrambled ness
The Interpreter, the Imaginarium, the Nag, the Rational Mind, our Conscious and Automatic Appraisers, and the Musing System can work together to lead to the creation of horrors. .. But sometimes our six systems interact to change and improve ourselves and our world, though we have not yet explicated what “improve” means for a species whose “good intentions” often have so many unintended bad consequences.
However, I believe the Imaginarium is humans’ last and best hope for redemption. In many ways, human imagination—conjuring up ghosts and sprits—got us into our human-made monster plight. Perhaps it can get us out.
11 – the gang of six
Let’s call all the parts of the conscious mind (the Interpreter, the Appraisers, the Nag, the Rational Mind, the Musing System, and the Imaginarium) “The Gang of Six”. This gang is almost entirely in the complete employ of “society”.
After we are born (even before we are born), we have experiences that wire the vast network of our head brain. These experiences are almost always mentored by others who tell us what to pay attention to, how to pay attention to it, how to value things, and how to evaluate (appraise) our actions. This process begins to fill up our long-term memories with edited memories that are infused with the perspectives, values, and assessments of others.
maté parenting law et al
..(hopefully) initially formed in a nurturing family and community-based social hot-house of emotion, care, “true beliefs”, and entrenched and cherished values and assessments. If care is missing or abuse is prevalent in early socialization, humans can be damaged for a lifetime (unless they get appropriate remediation).
we’re all currently damaged.. not ourselves..
..Even our daydreams and our imaginations are infused with the voices, standards, mores, and guilt that “society” has birthed us with. . as we grow up, we aspire to “live up” to the stories, values, assessments, and ways of doing, acting, and inter- acting tied to the social voices—the “conventions”—in our heads.. “successes” on “other people’s” terms.
I am an upper-middle-class person who can’t stand most upper-middle- class people, but who has no desire to journey back down the economic ladder.
My Catholic-infused foundational worldview theory taught me that the goal of life was not a job, but a vocation. A vocation was a calling to do good in the world for others. The purpose of life was not happiness but being moral and helping others. As a teenager I went to a seminary to study to be a priest, the vocation I believed to be the highest one.
These zombies (things once alive, but now dead, sometimes long dead, but still speaking to us in our heads) are a central part of the spirits, specters, and ghosts that everywhere haunt us humans. We are, all of us, at least partially “walking dead”.
12 – language
Note that I am referring to changing how we talk, not just to changing definitions of words. Meanings are not definitions; rather, meanings are conventional ways of using words in talk and in writing across multiple contexts.
Because we have a picture view of language, we regularly confuse ourselves.
And it is pure nonsense. It is based on the idea that we can conjure up things by manipulating language.
We wonder what “it all means”, when all of it has no meaning beyond the ones humans make up.
Language leads humans to think about the world and their lives in all sorts of false ways. People so strongly believe these falsehoods that they never question them, a magical effect indeed. We even have, in the United States, millions of people who believe the universe is 6000 years old because they read it in an old book and, of course, they took it “literally”.
Language is the major way in which humans make sense of things, make sense to each other, and even make sense of themselves. And yet language is a flawed system. Meaning is based on social conventions and, like all social conventions, is only good when the conventions are still useful for the problems they were designed to solve. Language is a perspective, “take”, or viewpoint on the world that is limited by the limited knowledge and powers of the creatures who use it, namely us.
This does not mean language is unimportant. But it is dangerous unless we do two things: (1) realize where it works imperfectly and invent (and use) new “languages” like the language of mathematics, and (2) treat language as an ongoing conversation and negotiation that must be monitored, questioned, and changed by a non-fetish-filled and ever updating view of the world and the people around us.
Realizing that there are at least three different ways to relate to the facts of this case, to this product, this thing, is to define and acknowledge your role as jury and as trier of fact; is to acknowledge your own participation in the creation of reality.
13 – stress and the state
Humans cannot survive without food and water. They also need three other things at a deep biological level. 1\ innate need to belong (to count; to feel that what they do and who they are matters to others; that their participation makes a difference). The problem is that humans take belonging where they can find it. They might join a good or bad group and everything in-between.
2\ innate need to feel that things make sense and have happened for a reason.
not buying this one
Without this, they feel no control over what happens to them and this is a very stressful state for humans.
very stressful state for whales in sea world
3\ deeply crave feeling safe, feeling that they are not under threat, especially threats that might overwhelm them.
not buying this one either.. again.. that’s r whales in sea world
Most humans also need to feel distinctive or different, individual or special in some way.
i’d say that’s #2
ie: maté basic needs
Modern research shows that just as serious injuries to our bodies can bring on depression and anxiety, thanks to inflammation caused by the workings of our immune systems, so, too, chronic stress and the chemicals it releases injure our organs and our brains. This too sets off inflammation in our organs and brains that can cause serious harm and even death.
I will use the word “ideology” now in a special and restricted sense. Every social group has to develop ways for “members” to behave, value, believe, act, and interact as members of the group. The group has to have principles about what makes a person an acceptable “citizen” of the group. In turn, the group promises “good citizens” a sense of belonging, meaning and safety
Ideology is not necessarily good or bad, and no group can cohere long without it
it’s bad.. we need to let go of group ness..
Any group must transmit (“teach”) their civic ideology to new group members and re-educate old group members as need be or as change occurs.
The state is one of the largest and historically significant levels at which civic ideology and civics function.
Authoritarian societies face the problem that they require a certain amount of fear or a feeling of threat for people to give up their individual freedoms.
all the whales in sea world.. aka: all of us
Democracies with a culturally or linguistically diverse citizenry face the problem that ever-shifting coalitions and collaborations can keep changing the basis of order and even the accepted civic ideology.
democracy itself the problem/symptom of deeper problem
The global world is no real competitor to the state (or religion) since it offers very thin, if any, belonging, meaning, or safety.
states are now pulling back from the global world in defense of their own borders and policies. ..
So far no one has found a way to make the global world a good recruiter for “membership” in any meaningful way.
well you just can’t hear it..
maybe because it’s sans membership?
what we need most.. a means to undo our hierarchical listening
The Mystery of Civil Obedience
In the sixteenth century, Étienne de La Boétie wrote a short book called On Voluntary Servitude (written in 1552–1553). La Boétie asked a question that has been influential ever since: Why are governments, even tyrants, able to dominate masses of people even though the government is but a very small minority compared to the masses of people it dominates? After all, people so outnumber the government it would seem that the government would disappear immediately if the masses simply with- drew their support. No violence would be required, the people would just need to stop cooperating.
voluntary compliance ness
La Boétie’s question speaks directly to a problem all governments, especially tyrannical ones, have: How to ensure large numbers of people do not just stop cooperating and complying? La Boétie suggests that governments accomplish this goal through a variety of methods.
1\ bread and circuses—that is, entertainment that engages people enough that they fail to pay much attention to what the government is or does.
2\ claim special powers
3\ take advantage of habit:
States can use two other methods, either the stick or the carrot. They can use violence (the stick) to keep people in line or they can enrich some people enough that fear of losing their wealth and influence turns them into sycophants. But La Boétie would point out that the masses always vastly outnumber the police or the sycophants, so we still need to know why they don’t just all band together and stop complying.
won’t stop if still think we’re whales
I believe that the mystery of civil obedience actually resides in the very nature of human beings as a type of creature.
symptom of being whales.. not legit human nature
Humans appear to favor local mounds over larger mounds. ..undoubtedly a good strategy since to act at a higher level normally requires support (order) at a lower level.
14 – another attempt to answer our question
There are other attempts *in the literature to answer the question “What is a human?” Many of these are philosophical texts and others are biological. .. One of the most definitive recent discussions in evolutionary biology about what humans are is Michael Tomasello’s Becoming Human. Tomasello has written extensively on this issue, focusing on the differ- ences between our primate cousins (chimpanzees and bonobos) and humans, both in terms of current abilities and evolutionary develop- ment. Tomasello reaches conclusions not dissimilar to the ones I have reached here, but he draws quite different implications from them.
research.. ness via text/written-word.. as you dismissed earlier.. no?
Normative Rationality: Thinking with Other People in Our Heads
holmgren indigenous law et al
Tomasello argues that the “capstone”, the crowning achievement, of human evolutionary development is what he calls “normative rationality” and “normative morality”. For Tomasello, these two things for the most part distinguish humans from other animals, including “higher animals”. In this section, I will discuss normative rationality (reasoning by norms one shares with others in an activity).
Almost everyone agrees that humans *developed strong abilities to coordinate themselves with and to cooperate with others.
? i think that’s what we failed to do most.. that’s what go us into sea world.. and the tragedy of the non common.. et al.. but ok.. ‘almost everyone agrees’.. must be true
i’m thinking it’s the thinking we had to *develop it that got us off track.. off focus.. (like group work in school.. forced coop)
Tomasello argues that humans’ evolving abilities to cooperate with each other took a unique form. Humans became able to be shared agents with others. They could act as a “we”, not just as an “I” or not just as individuals acting in parallel, like children engaged in parallel play.
crazy.. i was going to say.. that’s our natural state.. don’t need to evolve to it.. then you said it yourself..
This also means humans learned to think about thinking, their own and others, what we call meta-cognition.
Normative Morality: Thinking with Culture in Our Head
*Everyone also agrees that humans developed culture, that is, large-group norms that went far beyond small groups acting in coordination. The development of culture allowed humans to coordinate their behavior, thinking, and values with a large group of people, people who had a shared history and identity (“people like us”).
*everyonen also agrees..
let go man.. listen deeper
marsh label law et al
*People need to regulate and monitor their own behavior and thinking not just by the perspectives and evaluations of fellow small group members, but by the norms (values, “rules”, standards) of a large group of people.
? says who?
maybe *whales need to reg and monitor
They began self-regulating their thoughts via the group’s publicly accepted norms of rationality, and their actions via the group’s publicly accepted norms of morality: they observed not just social self- regulation but normative self-governance. They asked themselves, What ought I to think? And what ought I to do?. (p. 21)
In experiments where children have a choice of acting selfishly or not, they are less likely to act selfishly if they are watched by a peer.
(so let’s assume spinach or rock ness is human nature and research that.. oi)
learned to incorporate a whole culture’s norms and thereby coordinate on a massive level for massive projects like bridges, schools, and warfare. But think about where this leads. You get better at hunting by perspec- tive taking, but sooner or later you imagine the perspective of the animal and worry about killing living beings. ..(war, anyone?)
scared shitless into conformity, especially when this is all stuff you learned as a child at your mother’s (your culture’s) lap.
Tomasello: goal/outcome of culture.. is conformity. For the most part, he sees this conformity as a great power that allows humans to bury our dead, build skyscrapers, and engage in “morality”..But with and after agriculture, up until today, social and cultural conformity often means serving the interests of a small group of powerful people, so that they (and not you) can become wealthier, happier, and ever more powerful.
Here again we encounter La Boétie’s question: Why do people obey (conform, engage in civil obedience rather than civil disobedience) in a state, the modern outcome of many cultures? Tomasello suggests, ..they are listening to voices in their own heads that are so deeply infected by others and by their culture that they must conform, even if they have personal doubts.
pluralistic ignorance et al
This conformity often means collaboration in the name of war on others and on the world itself in the name of “us”. We are no longer “natural”; we are “human-made monsters” capable of destruction on a scale no other animal has ever achieved. That is where we started this discussion and where we can leave Tomasello, perhaps with a sidelong glance at those bonobos who, unlike chimps, have minimal culture but do a lot of peacemaking based on sex and rarely go to war.
15 – conclusion to part 2
In Part II, I argued that lying and fetishes, the need to coordinate and cooperate, helped build the human mind.
(and still.. mind is the totality of a human.. can’t separate it out.. that just builds/perpetuates the walls of sea world)
Stoics argued that humans can only find happiness by paying attention to and accepting the present moment,
I personally do not find these exercises at all calming. In fact, they scare the heck out of me. What they do is strip bare the mystical enchantments of meaning and magic with which humans fill the world. If this is what paying attention to the present is like—if this is the true shape of reality stripped of the fetish powers humans have given it—I don’t want it. This sort of thing makes me suicidal.
hari rat park law et al
Human-made monsters cannot live without our enchanted world and its fetishes. At the same time, this world has made us behave like monsters, to rave like the insane, and to destroy ourselves and others in the name of diabolic fetishes like “true belief ”, money, God and Country, and power. How can humans live, caught as we are between the choice of an unenchanted world we could not bear to live in and specters that haunt us with fear and trembling as often as they do with magic and hope?
We have come to the following conclusions:
- There is no free will.
- There is no purpose or meaning to life outside of what we tell ourselves.
- Humans are Transacting Swarms, processes of processes, swarms, not things.
- Much of a human as a Transacting Swarm is not “human”.
- Humans have no access to most of the processing and information that goes into their decisions, emotions, desires, beliefs, and actions.
- Much of what humans believe and the stories they tell themselves (stemming from the Interpreter) are delusions and self-deception.
- Humans are tropic to comfort not truth.
- Humans are different from other animals in that they are human- made monsters, partly untethered to evolution and able (and willing) to unleash destruction on each other and the world.
- Humans are prone to fetishes and have filled their minds and worlds with demons, ghosts, and spirits.
- Humans are formed by internalizing the voices and values of social groups, cultures, and society, many aspects of which they have little conscious awareness. They are herd animals.
- Many humans (me included) cannot face the mundane world as it is and need to see the world as enchanted or enchant it.
- The vast majority of what exists is beyond humans’ senses and understanding.
We think of ourselves as individuals making free choices. In reality, we are swarms of processes made up of human, non-human, and in-between elements. Humans as flows are ever affected by, and affect, all the other flows, human and non-human, in which they come into contact in the world.
As Transacting Swarms, humans seek homeostasis, as do all natural processes.
do they? or is that more whales ness
making myriads of “deci- sions” moment by moment that ultimately result in emergent outcomes that are not the product of a single conscious mind.
yeah.. i don’t think life/human-being is about decision making (rather.. it is unmooring us)
Should we conclude that things are just the way they are and probably will end not long from now anyway? Should we live, as animals do, not theorizing things, not appealing to morals we seem rarely to follow, and not pretending that our stories, or our art for that matter, are anything more than whistling in the dark? The answer in all probability is yes.
However, I am not willing, yet, to say “yes” to this question. I am one of those humans who cannot live without enchantment. I am one of those humans who want to believe there is “more”, but I do not want to gain a simplistic “more” by believing in a God that lets two-year-old children suffer and die or in religions that spent their history killing each other in the name of their “all good” God.
And I do not want to gain “more” by believing that human beings are smart even though they have run up such a wretched record of destruction, let alone by believing they are smart enough to rectify this destruction on their own. Humans don’t walk on water; they can’t even swim that well.
human being ness.. isn’t about intellect ness
wish you could hear
16 – messages from the dead
As I went off to my first job, there appeared to be no reason for me to have read literature, since at Hampshire I taught courses on syntactic theory (more specifically, Chomskyan Generative Grammar). However, Hampshire was a very liberal liberal-arts college. The students were not required to take any courses at all. They graduated by doing projects and taking exams at various levels. They took courses only if they wanted to and could leave them at any time. There were no grades, and the students got written evaluations instead.
It was interesting as a linguist trying to sustain undergraduates’ interest in a course like Government and Binding Theory in Generative Grammar when they could drop the course at any time. It was hard to get them to even start the classes.
red flag we’re doing it/life wrong
Reading poetry unschooled—stuff that I knew was supposed to be “High Culture”, not the sort of thing anyone I knew growing up would have read or discussed—I realized that I could understand, love, and use this poetry just as who I was, both a human being and one not born into the right class. I felt these authors were not speaking to elites, the rich, or the highly educated, but to people, any person who had a body and a soul, to people as humans with the same loves and pains as each other, and to people as absolute individuals who could sing their own songs. I felt they were speaking to me.
Something strange happened when Shakespeare came to school. When his work was made canonical and turned into a required school subject, poor and working-class people stopped wanting to read him and often the richer students read him diligently only for a good grade.
The value of poetry does not reside in schools and universities or canons of good literature. It resides in an interaction between human beings as languaged beings and a poet who is hailing those beings to more fully and carefully inhabit their language as a giver of meaning.
Emily Dickinson’s poem taught me that “emotion” is a much less appropriate word than “soul” for this part of us that dies many times before we die, if we are truly living now and not just for the next life. It also makes me see how deeply sad it is when any human being does not get an opportunity to live life in full.
17 – embodied meaning
Nearly everyone is aware that computers and things like Google Search do not know what words and phrases mean beyond their ability to correlate words with other words through lists, definitions, or associations. It may be beyond mathematical possibility for a machine to ever know what words and phrases mean to human beings in their full sense.
this is huge for tech w/o judgment ness (not his point.. but huge to what we’re capable of.. and missing.. in tech/ai)
The meaning of meaning that we care about here is the way words and phrases take on meaning for human beings in actual contexts of interaction and in their meditations on life, living, and reality. We need a specific name for this type of meaning. I will call it “embodied meaning”. Embodied meaning is the sort of meaning computers and search engines will never grasp.
which is a great thing for a means to undo our hierarchical listening
embodiment (process of) et al
Meaning in this embodied sense—the only sense important to humans as living, experiencing beings—is closer to what a sip of wine means to a sommelier than to a dictionary definition. Embodied mean- ings require a being that has feelings, emotions, embodied experiences, social ties, and a sense of self as absolutely unique and yet fully part of shared history with other people at all different levels and with life itself.
No computer will ever arrive at this sort of meaning. Computers can treat words as information in the sense of definitions (where each word is given meaning by association with a string of other words). They cannot give words embodied meanings because they have no bodies and no emotions, and they have lived no life.
Embodied meaning is not just found in words and language. Other things can and do become symbols (signs, like words) for humans. .. Humans give embodied meaning to everything and meld these meanings, effortlessly, with words as a record of our meaningful encounters with others, history, and the world.
We will understand each other better or worse depending on how similar our embodied meanings are or how open we are to exploring each other’s embodied meanings where they differ with openness and honesty.
People who talk and interact a good deal, and who have shared a lot of experiences in life and ways of reacting to them, will have similar embodied meanings for many words. The danger is, if the circle of cooks is too narrow, their stews can simmer too long without change and become more and more tasteless to others.
All this talk of words may bring up the question of what happens when we have feelings, thoughts, and responses to things, people, or the world for which we have no words. The answer is, of course, that humans usually talk around it and try to put it into words that do not quite work. Then, through shared experiences and talk we learn a new way to name it and talk about it, though one that evolves with time. An interesting issue here is this, however: What would happen if a person felt he or she had a constellation of feelings, thoughts, and responses that no one else does or could understand? This could not be talked out. No shared new language could be discovered, since others could not understand enough of what the person feels.
Such a person would be rendered “speechless”, truly alone, no longer, in this specific respect, socially embodied in the world. I do not know if such things truly exist, though I do know there are people who feel they do, including me.
Indeed, there may well be, for many or all human beings, constellations of thought, feeling, and response for which we have no words. In contact with others, no words seem to name what we feel and attempting to invent with others a new way to talk about what we feel seems never to work. If this is true, there is, perhaps, for each of us, a part of us beyond language, beyond meaning, a part of us that is purely part of our body as a unique Transacting Swarm, a part of us that needs either just to be accepted or faced in the shadows that language and society cannot reach.
People may or may not feel (or care) whether their life has meaning or purpose beyond simply living it. But all humans swim in a sea of embodied meanings thanks to language in general and their own specific language (or languages). This sea is filled with purposes, seen, felt, formed, and changed. These are not the sort of “purpose of life” purposes philosophers have pursued. They are the sorts of purposes that all animals pursue to survive and flourish. Humans, however, live in a languaged world of socially embodied meanings. This is purpose-driven (interactional) meaning none of them can *escape or fail to care about.
hmm.. i think we can let go (your *escape) of that more than we think
The whole world of texts, past and present, the whole history of words across all cultures and time, can be part of human beings’ embodied meanings. This trove of past meanings sits there. Where, when, how, why, and whether we should look into this trove is a central question not just of education, but a question about the point of education.
let it go
Humans can look at their language as a “gift” from the past. They can see their language as a “tool” to think and feel with beyond themselves
When I think about how words like “democracy” and “capitalism” become labels for an entire embodied experiential base of combined words, thoughts, feelings, and meanings, embodied by me, but flowing from the past and all other speakers and writers of the language, I realize clearly how this can be a realm where I can simultaneously discover something about my very specific and unique stance on, or relationship to, democracy and capitalism and yet still discover thoughts and feelings relevant to all people, to people and their “rights” just as people (universal meanings).
yeah.. i think that’s whale talk.. not legit human being talk.. you’re basing our abilities off something that’s actually doing us damage
The sea of language, when reflected on (much in the way we can reflect, if we choose, on the patterns of our dreams), becomes a massive repository for forming specific universals. I can form and transform, as a life process, specific universals about love, death, women, men, food, wine, alcoholism, nature, birds, knowledge, science, stupidity, and on and on.
I do think that if you find nothing at all in your languaged experience of the world, and most certainly your reflective experiences of your language as it works in your embodied experience, to inspire specific universals, then I am afraid for and of you. I do not judge you; I do not think I am, in any fashion at all, superior to you. But I do fear you. If it is not clear yet why, I will turn to the answer in the next chapter.
18 – specific universals
Pigs exchange micro-organisms with the ground constantly, love to splash in water and roll in mud to supplement their bodies and cool down, since they cannot sweat.
The first step allowed me to realize that my pigs are radically different creatures than me. Until I got them, as babies, I never just laid down in a field, in the grass and the dirt. When humans stood up, we left the ground, became ungrounded, and lost a keen sense of smell. We became detached from the world of physical and biological information systems grounded in dirt not language.
My pigs caused me to realize and long for more contact with the ground, to see this as something I, as a specific being with my specific ills and illnesses, was in need of. When I saw their joyous revels in water, dirt, and mud, I remembered human toddlers at joyous play in sand and dirt, something good and important for a healthy human microbiome. I also felt strongly my own minimal and isolated childhood, in large part detached from the physical world and lost in a strict spiritual one. I felt a hole and found a way to fill it, at least partially.
Considerable recent work on health argues that humans need much more contact with the earth than they normally get. While some contro- versial research has argued that human health is improved when humans have more contact with the electrons in the ground, there is a good deal of uncontroversial research on the positive health effects of connecting to the earth in general:
Research has shown that taking group nature walks, for example, is linked with lower depression, less stress and better mental health and well-being. Other research has shown that spending long stretches of time in the woods – a so-called “forest bath” – can boost the number of white blood cells that fight viruses and tumors.
Seeing someone as “white” or “black” can obliterate their distinctiveness as persons, rendering them a category to be defined by someone else.
The evil of racism is how it obliterates human beings’ distinctiveness, their special specificity, the deepest source of the gift they have to give to others. Categories and essentializing people as groups can do the same, even if we think it is done in the service of social justice.
categories evaporate into thin air.
marsh label law et al
19 – morality
My decision about when, where, and why to protect myself rests, in part, on requiring others who wish to interact with me to have a capacity for and willingness to form specific universals.
will only work w legit universals.. ie: maté basic needs.. anything more compromises our human being ness
For me, this is a standard of reciprocal interactive respect for both the absolute distinctiveness and individuality of each person and the unity they share with others and beyond humans to other living beings. I believe this makes humans safe to each other, a source of learning, and mutually obligated to have regard for each other. For me, that is a moral stance.
Work in EEB (ecology, evolution, behavior) sees the small group as a crucial unit of human social organization and evolution. Humans, from the beginning, needed groups for survival and flourishing. Groups are required, as well, for collective actions that supersede individual accomplishments and allow humans, for better and worse, to impact the world at large scales. In turn, this work argues that the need for cooperation and the subordination of self- interest in groups is the evolutionary origin of morality for humans.
i think it shows another case of tragedy of the non common.. we have no idea what legit free people are like..
i think we’ve created some supposed need for (ideas of): coop, subord of self interest, obligation, reciprocity, et al.. because we’ve never legit seen free people dancing the dance
we keep saying we want freedom.. but we can’t seem to let go enough of control (over seeming-disorder et al) enough to get to it.. to see/hear it..
..groups only function to help the individuals within them when they can somehow subordinate individual selfishness to loyalty and active participation in the group. Groups that cannot do this do not cohere and function effectively.
i see that as myth.. as man made.. black science of people/whales law
So, groups need norms and ways to enforce them. These norms tend to stress things like honesty, courage, sharing, and caring for others in the group. Groups whose members have such properties will not only function effectively, they will out-compete groups whose members lack these properties.
i see *that as violence
Group selection, however, *does not eliminate selfish and murderous behaviors in humans so much as it moves such bad behaviors to the level of groups competing with each other. Often, humans learn to “play nice” with each other in groups in part so we can destroy other people in other groups.
rather *it helps create/perpetuate ‘bad behaviors’
While humans have learned to collaborate in groups, they have problems as groups get larger and larger. ..People have the hardest time cooperating in large groups, like institutions, cities, and states, made up of many people they do not know as individuals.
the issue is w thinking we have to collab/coop.. esp to some already made project/grouping/gathering (such as institutions, cities, states)
This problem for humans is rooted in biology.
The idea that humans have been evolutionarily selected as a species to be cooperative in smallish groups and that this is the source of behaviors that we often label as “moral” is, I believe, an important insight. It certainly tells us that if we want humans to stop tearing each other apart, we need to enforce good group behavior (and, thus, mitigate individual selfishness) and we must, as well, mitigate between-group conflicts and get humans to see themselves as groups at all different levels, up to the whole of humanity.
so.. book isn’t so much about what is a (legit free) human.. before we’ve messed w it.. it’s about how to control whales in sea world
This is another basis of what counts as morality for me. If you are the sort of person who values all humans and, indeed, all life, then I feel safe around you and we will treat each other well.
ssafety addiction et al.. killing us
let’s try gershenfeld something else law.. and trust that people are (then can be their natural) good
In the end and at the very least, morality is rooted in the human need and “right” (biologically specified requirement) to survive and protect oneself.
yeah.. i don’t think so.. i think that’s off
essence of human being: maté basic needs
rights, safety, protection.. are killing us..
For humans, the best way to do this is to subordinate self- interest, cooperate with others, and engage in reciprocal regard. This sounds just like what it is, morality. Such morality is difficult for humans because many cannot overcome their “over-valuing” of self and kin
it’s difficult for humanity because it’s unnecessary (control, violence, whatever) for legit free people
20 – the examined life
People (yes, like me, at times) who argue, along with Socrates, that the unexamined life is not worth living are trapped in a real dilemma:
Either they have to believe the vast majority of people on earth live and have lived worthless lives or they have to believe that they are deceiving themselves and wrongfully judging their own virtue and even the worth of their own lives.
In discussing “What is a human?” thus far in this book I have reached the conclusion that humans are not who they think they are. In that case, much talk and writing about what humans should or should not do or believe or what constitutes a good or bad human or human life is irrelevant, since it is about creatures who do not exist.
We do not yet know really how to study and do not even have a good language for studying humans as they are, though new work is beginning to change this. The future study of humans will, I believe, be couched in terms of complex systems interacting with complex systems at all different levels.
We will see any one human as a universe of complexity and sets of humans in interaction as beyond any definitive understanding. This is not because humans are better or higher than other animals, but because their act of “self-making” (remember humans are human-made monsters) introduces a whole new level of complexity, perhaps tragically so.
Having said all that, this question “what is the meaning of life?” still gnaws at me. Certainly, there is no purpose to life in the sense that some designer made it up and assigned it to humans. But we still might ask: Can a human being make up a purpose for his or her own life (in a universe with no free will)? Can a life with no purpose have meaning?
david on boredom et al
It is hard to know what point there would be in meditating on the purpose of life if humans do not have free will. Sadly, a final issue is that, for a majority of people on earth today, it seems their imposed purpose in life is to serve other people’s interests, the rich and powerful, often under coercion.
while humans do not have free will, they are not “determined”. A human being and a human life are complex systems whose workings and outcomes could never have been predicted. If someone’s life could be run from the beginning again it would turn out differently, because in any complex system even small differences in initial contexts (so small we cannot control for them) can lead to large differences in outcomes. We are certainly free in the sense that we are not determined.
21 – conclusion to part 3
Humans have evolved to be able, in some contexts, to cooperate in groups—to treat each other “morally”—in order to accomplish goals that cannot be accomplished alone. They have often used this sociality, however, to defeat other groups. As groups get larger, humans have a harder and harder time cooperating, though they become yet more dangerous than ever when they do—witness our wars.
i would say they were coerced into this.. ie: voluntary compliance et al to made up ideas (more suitable for the unsuitableness of whales in sea world)
22 – plug and play
If you think of humans as plug-and-play devices—devices that need to be plugged into the right things (tools, other people, practices) in the right ways—then it makes sense why humans look so smart in terms of what is inside (a massive brain), but aren’t in reality so smart. Humans are devices that are smart only when connected up, plugged in, and wired up with other people, tools, and practices of certain sorts in the right ways. This has been true ever since we as a species learned to use tools and to transmit learning through social practices using language and later literacy across generations.
While I am not very impressed by the intelligence, or even the basic competence, of human beings as individuals, I am impressed by their plug-and-play capacities under the right circumstances. As plug-and-play devices, humans can build freeways (and, alas, pollute the world); make nuclear bombs (and, alas, destroy the world); and invent new crops to keep vastly more people alive (alas, to die in poverty and wars in some countries and to die from toxic food and toxic life styles in others).
yeah.. i think we’re missing the point if we think we’re meant to be smart
We have identified a perfectly good sense in which humans are more intelligent than animals. They are vastly better as plug-and-play devices. But it is clear, too, that while humans can do impressive things as plug-and-play devices, things no animal or species of animal could ever accomplish, we still face the problem that there is a type of intelligence that humans lack even as plug-and- play devices. They *lack “insight intelligence”. They often do great things that, nonetheless, bring them and others great harm and grief as unintended consequences.
again.. i think we lost that with all the obsession/oppression/thinking that intellect ness is something to focus on
Insight intelligence is hard because no one can foretell the future, especially in our current age of fast and unpredictable change. Thus, *insight intelligence requires humility, careful planning and testing, and fail-safe mechanisms that allow for adaptation to unforeseen changes or responses.
rather *it requires that we let go of the intellect ness part.. the thinking we know things and can plan/test things .. that we can be fail safe..
what we need to focus on is non hierarchical listening
we need a mech/means to help with that ie: tech as it could be.. let’s plug into that
get back to taleb antifragile law
Let’s call good collective systems, systems where diverse sorts of people and tools are plugged in together in effective ways “smart systems”. Smart systems have the potential to make us human-made monsters into some- thing less monstrous. They can make smart decisions and solve hard problems. At its best science works because it is composed of people networked, in different ways and at different levels, into smart systems.
yeah.. let’s just focus on augmenting our natural interconnectedness
let go of smart ness
What we need, but do not yet have, are smart systems with built-in insight intelligence. To achieve such a thing, we would need to imbue smart systems with morality. We have not done well imbuing individual humans with morality, but it may be easier to build morality into smart systems than into individual humans.
we do have the means.. you/we just can’t hear the ideas..
we’re not going to create morality (even if that was a legit goal) by using some tool to get there..
what we can do .. is use some tool.. to help us listen deeper.. to what is already (good) inside us.. then use that data to jump start us back to the natural dance we were made for – what a human being ness is about
If we created conditions where the hierarchy disappeared or was greatly weakened, each animal would be healthier, flourishing rather than surviving.
for humans – a means to undo our hierarchical listening
So far, I have avoided saying what flourishing means for humans or soci- eties: to feel distinctive as individuals and to feel a sense of social belonging where neither requires one to look down on others. Let us call this “flourishing”.
on it man..
Social groups where individuality and belonging are in balance in an optimal way are rare, though some degree of balance is necessary for the survival of both humans and societies.
has to be all of us.. everyone in sync law
which we can do today.. we can facil that chaos/freedom
One very common way societies have achieved flourishing is to make people feel distinctive by giving them different roles in the society, while giving them a sense of belonging to something larger by getting everyone in the society to feel that their role in the society is crucial to keep the society’s enemies (foreigners, “others”, outsiders) at bay.
all fake.. all part of the cancer..
Today it is often human-caused lack of space and resources that make them unable to flourish, some- times even to survive. The problem is that humans, even when they have replete resources, often continue to oppress each other through status, greed, and power.
ie: hari rat park law et al
23 – morality again
If we could combine smart systems, insight intelligence, and morality, we would have a force that could remedy many of our human-made monster properties as beings.
yeah.. not so much.. those would all just perpetuate our broken eedback loop
we need to listen deeper
In this chapter, I sketch a perspective on morality that would fuel insight intelligence and smart systems to do good and not harm.
let’s just try gershenfeld something else law for that
Our personal morality is ultimately based on the properties that we insist people must have *if we are to trust them and let them into our personal circle of humanity.
ginormous red flag we’re doing it wrong
Thanks to our shared heritage as humans, there are plenty of universal, or close to universal, principles here. *Most humans don’t trust people who disrespect them or see them as beings to be used for their own benefit.
rather *most whales (not legit free human) – this is ie of tragedy of the non common
One approach to morality can be seen in Elinor Ostrom’s work on the tragedy of the commons. She does not use the term, but her work describes a form of organizing groups and governments that I would readily call moral… Ostrom’s answer to the problem of the tragedy of the commons was based on studies of people actually solving such problems in the *real world.
Now we have to ask, if these principles work why are they so rarely implemented? They are *hard to implement because evolution per se seems not often to give rise to them. At least it did not do so for humans, though it seems to have gotten closer for elephants. For humans, some force **beyond evolution alone needs to come into play.
**let go of all this evolution ness.. wrong focus.. just like smartness is wrong focus.. irrelevant s are killing us
By the way, the answer to this question (how to get govts to do this) might be—I don’t really know, of course—that we should start at the bottom and work our way up to the top.
Human identity signaling at the level of large groups composed of individual who do not know each other personally, but recognize each other through these identity signals, are the driving force of ever more separation among people even in the same society.
yeah.. ie: marsh label law
*Humans are biologically inclined to fetishize membership and to priv- ilege kin and more local groups over wide swarths of humanity.
*whales are inclined.. not via bio.. in the ecosystem/cage/sea-world.
The approach to morality I have taken here sees morality as principles or values for solving the essential tragedy of the commons problem for humans: How to share well enough to live together in peace and flourishing. The most basic principle or value is: Use and enjoy, *but do not fetishize membership. In the end, we are all animals in it together.
yeah.. i don’t think that will work.. let go of membership altogether.. just one body.. group via daily curiosity
let’s try cure ios city
24 – affinity
What is happening here? These people have accomplished something *humans often have a very hard time with.
They are comfortable with strangers, yet at the same time living on the cruise with each other without hierarchy, fixed roles, anxiety, or fear of either being over- included (too social) or under-included (left out). The cruise is surely a space where individuality (being distinctive) and sociality (belonging) are well balanced.
aka: maté basic needs
again.. let’s org around that.. ie: problem deep enough ness
Indeed, the space seems a good example of what we earlier called “reciprocal non-conflictual flourishing”, since the sea-monkeys seem to be flourishing, not just surviving.
Cruises like this one are called “affinity cruises” and are evidently popular throughout the cruise industry. People with shared interests and passions can join a cruise of their own. Conservatives can go with conser- vatives and liberals with liberals, as can people with a great many other affinities.
so.. imagine ‘affinity cities’ via 2 conversations
Thanks to the Internet and social media, people can readily join together, across the world, based on a shared interest or passion in terms of which they feel an affinity with each other.
we haven’t used the web like it could be used: www ness
to organize that globally (has to be all of us or it won’t work – someone will be missing their ‘affinity’ partner et al.. and have to give up their fittingness just to be a part of some gathering).. today..
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..
Any affinity space, large or small, can be devoted to good, bad, or neutral causes.
not any bad (as in harmful).. if we legit go with listening to 8b itches first thing everyday.. the problem (of harmful ness) comes into play when we don’t let people be themselves.. when we make them fit in .. in order to belong
Institutions used to be the only way humans could orga- nize themselves, usually top down and hierarchically, to carry out big endeavors. This is no longer true. People can today organize themselves into affinity spaces and carry out large endeavors through emergent and bottom-up forms of flexible organization.
The key problem of any society or state is how to gain the loyalty of citizens to the society or state and to each other as “co-citizens” when humans prefer their kith and kin and can distrust, or not care much about, people they do not know personally. This is actually a problem *rooted in human biology
yeah.. not really.. it’s *rooted in the sea world we constructed.. ie: black science of people/whales law
Affinity spaces are a new way for people to bond with others in large groups of people they do not necessarily know individually or well. The signals here are signals of a shared interest/passion and *shared norms of behavior, as well as all the distinctively designed resources in all the spaces that compose a larger affinity space. Affinity as a glue is much stronger for humans than the bonds of society or state and it even sometimes competes with that ultimate human glue that binds us to kith and kin.
*red flags – why affinity ness hasn’t gone global yet
People moving across affinity spaces do not need to share any society or state, or even any ethnic group, language, or culture. They do not have to be parts of an institution to carry out enterprises with others and they do not need institutional certifications to learn, master, and become experts in anything they want. They do not need money or external status to gain respect if they work hard.
yep on that.. as long as we let go of all the red flags
For *most of history, people have sorted themselves by roles in society, jobs held, and things like race, class, ethnicity, and gender. They have largely operated in society and within institutions subject to a good deal of top-down control and formal rules. “Affinity”, as I am using the term, describes a modern form of bonding around shared interest, passion, and a common endeavor outside of formal institutions and often outside the typical groupings found in societies and states.
yeah that.. (and i’d say for *all of history)
we can do that today..
I am in a domain where my standing is determined not by my degree or institution, but by my contributions to the affinity spaces through which I travel.
In the virtual affinity spaces, people do not have to identify overtly their race, class, gender, ability, or any other such traits that define us so visibly in society.
The new forms of affinity and affinity spaces made possible through digital technologies have, I believe, real liberating potential, though we must always remember that any powerful technology can be used for good or ill.
25 – conclusion to part 5
I have argued that people will do this only if they can send each other honest, *reciprocal, and non-divisive signals of trustworthiness and safety.
However, in a world where all humans and life as a whole are facing a possible collapse in which we will all go down together, I would argue that sending and demanding signals of trust and safety for all is not just a moral imperative, but a survival imperative.
The irony is that if we “moral” collaborators act, we may save their sorry souls as well as our own.
which is doable if we org around something 8b souls already crave ie: problem deep enough
26 – conclusion to book
Below is a list of what I have concluded about what a human is. It is, by no means, complete or definitive. It is a first try. It is meant to be a guide for inquiry, reflection, and despair or hope, depending on how you react to such things. then has list of *27 – last one is: **mistaken of what they are
indeed to that ie: black science of people/whales law – but that’s not what a legit free human is.. that’s what it is not..
I will admit that I have asked “What is a human?” because I personally want to know.
Our looming extinction is a classic, and maybe our last, tragedy of the commons problem. The earth is our commons.
everything has to be our commons
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
..flourishes best when, like termites, we see the inextricable link between our utter uniqueness as individuals and our total belonging to the commons.
fitting that the image is just the head.. and subtitle is language, mind, culture.. (by that i mean .. missing the point of human being)
ie: from gut:
daniel wolpert: only reason for having a brain is to enable movement..
vagus nerve is the fastest and most important route from the gut to the brain.. people can be made to feels comfortable or anxious by stimulating their vagus nerve at different frequencies..
brain is isolated.. gut is right in thick of it.. able to tell brain things about us it would never otherwise have had an inkling of
gut’s large sa makes it the body’s largest sensory organ… a huge matrix sensing our inner life and working on the subconscious mind.. eyes, ears, nose or skin pale by comparison
it’s palpably clear that our infant self consists of the gut and the brain.. as we get older.. we increasingly experience the world thru our senses.. connection between gut and brain becomes more refined..
not yet scrambled ness
then too this tweet while reading:
Beating COVID, beating poverty and beating ecocide are all exactly the same problem. It is the problem of “Ecology of Mind,” as Gregory Bateson put it.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/fabianacecin/status/1322844838258237440
have to go deeper than ecology of mind..