Evolutionary Unique Self, Outrageous Love & the Unique Self Symphony (Part 12)

Taken from a first draft text from the forthcoming book The Path and Practice of Outrageous Love by Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, this series elaborates on a critical advancement of the Unique Self Dharma that Dr. Marc has developed after Your Unique Self was published.

Continued from part 11.

Specialization

There is a rapid, continuous evolutionary up leveling that humans and human society experience in a way that no animal does. What is it about human society that is distinct that causes this constant, dramatic, incessant evolutionary transformations? What causes rapid human growth?

The reason this is such a key question is because objective human nature itself does not change. In the last 200,000 years, the essential nature of the human being from the perspective of the size of the human brain, the organs of the body, and the major systems of the body has not changed. Usually, in evolutionary unfolding, when you get a different level of functioning it’s because there’s an evolution in the physical structure of that particular species. Evolution then jumps to a higher level of reality.

This process of evolution in the human being is completely different. The human body, both from an exterior and interior perspective of the basic organs, is actually pretty much the same as it’s been in the last 200,000 years. And yet, everything has changed. To say that life is the same today as it was 40,000, years ago, for example, is utterly absurd. In that time, we’ve multiplied more than one hundred thousand percent, from about three million to seven billion people. We’ve given ourselves a level of self-knowledge, science, religion, attainment, comfort and luxury that no other species can imagine. We’ve colonized every imaginable corner of the planet and explored almost every inhabitable one. We’ve altered the appearance, the genetics, and the chemistry of the world. We surrounded ourselves with peculiar, nonrandom arrangements of atoms that we call technology that we invent and reinvent continuously. These allow us the spectacular achievements of culture, law, poetry, philosophy, space travel, modern medicine, nanotechnology, robotics, computers and so much more that we all take for granted.[1]

Chimpanzees don’t do that. Dolphins don’t do that. Parrots don’t do that. Octopi don’t do that. Some of these occasionally use tools; they occasionally shift their ecological niche. But they don’t raise their standard of living, they don’t experience economic growth, they don’t encounter poverty. They don’t evolve from one level of consciousness to another, nor do they miss doing so. They don’t experience agricultural, urban, commercial, industrial or information revolutions. They certainly don’t experience renaissances, or reformations, depressions, demographic transitions, civil wars, cold wars, cultural wars or credit crunches.

Even as I sit here, in this moment, I am surrounded by telephones, books, computers, photographs, and paper clips, coffee mugs that no monkey ever came close to making. I’m spilling digital information onto a screen in a way that no dolphin ever vaguely managed. I’m aware of abstract concepts (the date, the weather forecast, the second law of thermodynamics) that no parrot could even begin to grasp. I’m definitively different.

So what makes me so different? It’s not because I have a bigger brain. Neanderthals, on the average, had bigger brains than I do. Yet they didn’t experience this kind of headlong cultural evolution that all humans benefit from and participate in. So what’s it about? One part of the answer is clearly that the human being is the only animal that’s able to create collective intelligence. Look at the difference between a hand axe and your computer. They’re both man-made, and they’re both tools. The fundamental difference is that the hand ax was made by a single person. It’s a function of the intelligence of a single person. The computer was made by hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people.

The amount of collective intelligence that goes into every dimension of the computer, from the hardware to the software, is astounding. At some point human intelligence became collective and cumulative in a way that happened to no other animal. That’s called cumulative cultural evolution. There’s a natural selection that is a key part of the mechanism of cultural evolution just like it is a key technology of biological evolution. But it’s not a selection only among genes it is rather a natural selection among ideas.

Cumulative culture means that ideas meet and mate. Just like sex is what makes biological evolution, cumulative idea sex is what makes human knowledge cumulative. Both in biology and in thought, different mutations come together and form a more evolved whole that is passed down. Whatever gain is made through the progeny of successful idea sex, is then inherited by the next generation. That is why evolution is cumulative. That cliché of the cross-fertilization of ideas actually lies at the very source code of reality. To re-create and recombine is the source code of cultural evolution. Now, what causes this to happen?

The exchange of ideas begins with and evolves through trade. Trade means that we specialize. Each of us specializes in giving a particular thing. We divide our labor, for the sake of mutual gain. So the division of labor and specialization of efforts and talents for mutual gain is, according to Ridley and many leading anthropologists, the essential driver of human civilization. Specialization fosters division of labor which in turn births innovation. Therefore, innovation is sourced in specialization. Specialization saves time because you’re not doing everything yourself. Saved time is prosperity. Prosperity, in some sense, is simply time saved that you can use beyond your survival needs. Time saved is thus directly proportional to the division of labor, that is to say specialization. We specialize means that we each do a different part of the task. The more human beings diversify, as producers, consumers, the more they specialize, the more they have to exchange. The more people that are drawn into specialization, the more innovation. It is the force of innovation that comes from specialization which is the basis for what Matt Ridley calls rational optimism.

To be continued…


 

[1] Of course as we have seen this cumulative explosion of innovation has demanded an energy outlay from reality that has led us to the second shock of existence. The second shock, recall is the inability of the environment to sustain itself in the face of the energy demands and imbalances introduced by the cumulative creative technological explosion of ideas and their enactment in the world.