What does evolution mean to you?
Why is it important?
What is the most important thing we all need to know about it?
How does it apply to our everyday life?
Evolution means a natural explanation for the amazing complexity and mystery we experience in the many levels of life that we are a part of.
It is important because it is part of a freedom (and a responsibility) to question everything, all authority, all assumptions, about all aspects of perception, understanding, awareness and appropriateness of modes of thought and action.
Understanding evolution allows individuals to escape from the dictates of authority and truth, as once one gets to understand the major themes of how life has evolved, and how brains have evolved, and how awareness and consciousness and culture itself have evolved in a cultural context, then one can start to see the notion of truth for the illusion that it is (and it is a useful and necessary illusion for the early stages of an individual’s evolving awareness of self in a cosmological context).
It seems clear to me that in today’s context, the single most important thing for people generally to understand about evolution is that at the higher levels it is at least as much about cooperation as it is about competition. When I first read Dawkin’s Selfish Gene in 1978, the later chapter’s about the work of John Maynard-Smith and Robert Axelrod clearly demonstrated the conditions under which cooperation can succeed, the need for attendant strategies to effectively prevent invasion by cheating strategies. When one looks at the evolution of complexity in life, it is clear that new levels of complexity are characterised by new levels of cooperation finding stable sets of attendant strategies to prevent invasion by cheating strategies.
We as individuals are a cooperating colony of billions of cells, that make up our body, and each cell contains thousands of different sorts of molecules (many nucleic acids, RNA and DNA) cooperating to make the cells function. We exist in many levels of cooperative social contexts, called family, community, work, and various levels of cultures.
At the highest levels of human awareness, it is clear that the current myopic focus on markets and competition is becoming the single greatest threat to our survival as a species, and to our freedom as individuals, and we need to foster far greater awareness of the power of cooperation, provided the attendant strategies are effectively preventing invasion by cheating strategies. Arguably most of the banking and finance industries, and much of our legal and political systems are now sets of cheating strategies in evolutionary terms, if not in legal terms.
The most important thing right now, seems to be in the conflict between the cultural systems around values that have evolved in times of real scarcity, that place so much value on markets and money. When most things were in fact scarce, markets which derive their value from scarcity and exchange, were very useful and powerful tools. The power of price and profit signals in information processing (as distinguished by Hayek and others) was very real and very powerful. Now that we live in an age of exponential expansion of information processing and automation, we have the technical ability to deliver universal abundance of a large and growing set of goods and services, but universal abundance always has zero market value. So now the scarcity based modes of thought that are fundamental to the concepts of money and markets and profit are in direct opposition to the real physical needs of the majority of humanity.
Seeing that reality, and seeing how developing cooperative systems can get us past this point, and seeing how such cooperation is simply the next logical level of the evolution of cooperation into yet higher dimensional strategy spaces, is the key intellectual step of our time.
It is likely to be a difficult step for many who are so emotionally and culturally invested in the current economic paradigm and the social systems that have evolved from it.
How it will apply to everyone, every day, is that a large and growing set of goods and services will be freely available to all, and the idea that anyone needs to work for a living will become less and less important, as exponential automation both delivers universal abundance of the products of that automation, and removes the need for any humans to be involved in that production process.
Adjusting to the practicality of a whole new level of liberty, and the responsibility that comes with such liberty (to care for the life and liberty of all others, which necessitates taking reasonable actions to support the environment that sustains us all, and to preserve representative samples of ecosystems) will take longer for some individuals than others.
Adjusting to the idea of indefinite life extension will take some a little longer, and it is the logical outcome of exponential growth in information processing. All life forms alive today seem to be part of an unbroken chain of life some billions of years old. The default mode of cellular life is indefinite. It is only the somatic lines of some complex organisms like ourselves that have evolved the trick of age related senility (loss of functionality) at the cellular level. Each cell must contain within it the genetic code for indefinite life, as it is in fact part of a chain of life billions of years old.
So that is going to be the next major challenge for our social evolution, once we adapt to the reality of universal abundance of a large and exponentially growing set of goods and services.
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