Thought, thinking, and accumulated knowledge is an important tool in the hands of human beings. But the entire living & non-living system of existence including existential processes functions without this man-made tool. What should mankind do?
[ 26/3/20 ]
Kind of, but not really.
Our thought processes allow something entirely new to emerge from evolution.
Up until recently, evolution could only adapt life to fit the changes that happened.
Sure, in all cases life changes the environment, and then must adapt to those changes, in an ongoing process at multiple levels simultaneous, and we now have the beginnings of something entirely different.
The dinosaurs had no possible way to anticipate or prevent the meteor that took them out.
We can’t quite do it yet either, but we are not far away from being able to do so.
Our response to the covid-19 is something that never happened before.
Here in New Zealand, we are on level 4 lockdown. Everyone stay home unless on essential business.
In all cases, at least 2m (6ft) separation from everyone else (except those you live with), at all times. Most people have accepted the necessity of it (by a very large margin).
That demonstrates an ability to model potential futures and select actions based on those models.
Nobody in New Zealand has actually died from it, and with luck nobody will. But anyone who wants to can see the deaths in Italian hospitals, or look at the statistics from New York, and see that the danger is very real, and this extraordinary action of total lockdown of all citizens not engaged in essential business (food, water, sanitation, healthcare, and their support services) is required. We are confined to home, with walks nearby provided that at all times at least 2m separation.
Such isolation is the only available method to stop this pandemic right now.
Most can and do see that, and compliance is close to 100%.
Everyone is getting fed. Everyone has housing. Nobody has been shot or arrested or even seriously threatened.
It is people over numbers (money) – at least in this country. Look after the people now – adjust the numbers later.
That sort of survival at scale would not be possible without our extended capacity to think, to imagine, to empathise, to cooperate.
It is clearly our ability to cooperate, far more than our ability to compete, that has made us as successful as we are. That is starting to be understood even by economists.
Without such a response (a thinking, caring, and very well orchestrated response), a great many people would die, and many more would be left with crippling lung damage for life.
The next 4 weeks will tell if it is going to work, and it seems very probable to me that it will. And it will be hard for many – already is, and it has only just started.
Without or big brains and all the knowledge and expertise they collectively contain, there would be very many fewer of us.
And sure, we all contain many levels of systems that did in fact allow for the survival of our distant ancestors in a context of widely separated families of nomads without language or culture – but that was a long time ago.
And sure, many of those systems operate fine without conscious control (better in most instances).
We are very complex entities. 50 years of interest in the biochemistry and systems of life and evolution have given me the beginnings of an appreciation of just how complex we really are – far more than any of us is capable of understanding in detail – only in the broadest of brush stroke sketches.
We are starting to learn really complex lessons about how much more important cooperation is to our survival than competition is.
We are starting to appreciate some of the deep dangers in our current economic systems; and finding effective ways to mitigate those will be a very complex, but essential, job to complete over the next decade or so. Fundamental changes are required.
So we are learning, we are working out ways to deliver security and freedom to all; and that will demand far greater levels of responsibility from all.
There is no historical precedent for what we are currently going through. There is nothing for the conservatives among us to point to and say – see – that way worked.
And that is not to say that there are not a great many lessons hard won and rightly cherished by the more conservative among us, so there is going to be a great need for real listening and real discussion from everyone.
We are just starting to work out some of the many different ways in which we can make very good use of these large and adaptive brains of ours. I am cautiously optimistic for a future of security and abundance and responsible freedom for all.