A Letter to the Hopeful InhabItants of the Anthropocene

Hi John

I like the general thrust of you essay immensely, though disagree with most of the detail.

There are some aspects of the notion of holism that seem to work, and others that seem to be mistaken.

The idea of “fields” that Smuts introduces on page 19 of the second edition does not seem to be at all how things actually work, though it does give a sort of working analogy in most circumstances.

Rather than fields, it seems that systems interact through exchanges of information, and the entrainment of related systems that follows from these exchanges. At the atomic level, these exchanges seem to be mediated by photons. It seems that photons carry information about the state of the emitting particle to the receiving particle as a set of probability functions with specific energy states.

It appears that all activity, at all levels of reality, is constrained within certain probability functions, and within the bounds of those functions, is capable of modification and entrainment through appropriate interaction.

Just as Smuts, earlier in chapter 1, discusses the effect of context and assumption sets (he calls it metaphysics) on the level of understanding one can have of evolution; it seems clear that his understanding is also severely constrained by the assumption sets in his own mind (as we all must be).

It seems there are two major sets of factors at work in the evolution of complexity.

Competition is there, as a set of factors that causes constant refinement by selection amongst variants through differential survival.

Cooperation is also there.

All the great advances in levels of organisation of life appear to have come about through the assemblage of new sets of strategies that allowed for new levels of cooperation to resist invasion by more short termed selfish non-cooperative strategies (cheats).

The ribosome seems to have been the first great enabling technology in this regard.
The next seems to have been the cell wall.
Then emerged catalysts, and various levels of amplification and feedback, that allowed very complex control systems to develop.
Then we had multicellularity.
Then the evolution of HOX genes, leading to dimensional (head/tail, left/right, upper/lower) differentiation in multicellular development.
Then came segmentation, nerves, and organs – through the extension of cooperative systems.

All of these systems able to function because of the exchange of packets of information between the parts, and the various feedback systems that resulted.

Eventually we got to complex organisms with neural systems, and cooperation could take the next great leap, working at the level of populations (families, tribes, species, assemblages of species, …)

Now we have human beings, where the assembly and transmission of information in systems has exploded exponentially into new levels, with whole new levels of complexity, abstraction and interaction.
We also have whole new sets of enabling technologies, like computers, the internet, cell phones, iPads, wikipedia, and discussion sites like this one here, etc

It seems that the next great leap in life, will come with sufficient number of humanity aligning with cooperative strategies (and their attendant cheat resistant strategies) to bring an active and responding awareness to the fact that all life is connected, and the technologies we use must work for all.

This absolutely requires going beyond markets and money (with their implied scarcity functions) and on to a level of actively choosing systems that promote and value abundance over scarcity (and deliver that abundance to all – free of charge).

It seems likely that this advance will occur as more and more people become aware of the two very different modes of information storage that are commonly available in reality.

One mode is the pictographic (or one to one, or sequential) mode of information storage. This is where information in the storage medium is stored in one to one correspondence with the object – such as a photograph. Cutting a photograph in half and throwing one half away loses half the total information, and does so in a way that 100% of the information is lost about half of the image. This is the way in which information is stored in most digital devices.

The other mode of storage is holographic (or many to one, or integrated). In holographic storage, every bit in the image contains a little bit of information about the whole. Cutting a holograph in half and throwing half away again loses half of the information, but it shows up very differently. We still have an image of the whole, but the image is much less distinct, the resolution has dropped by half.

It seems that our brains use both forms of storage in different parts of our systems.
It seems that our ability to abstract and integrate and intuit is a “side effect” of using “holographic” type of storage and processing of information.

It seems that once the human mind is introduced to an organising context that is a tighter fit for all of the information it has stored, it is capable of an almost instantaneous contextual shift to this new organising principle, even though it will retain most of the old habits of old contexts.

In this fashion, it seems that context is king within the individual human mind. And thus a new context can generate profound changes very quickly.

And I do agree, that entirely new levels of cooperative behaviour are critical to our survival, and I suspect, that at the higher levels of function, these will have nothing whatsoever to do with markets or money.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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1 Response to holism

  1. Pingback: Human Evolution | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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