Sunday, September 25, 2011

Telescopic Evolution

Eamonn Healy Monologue
Waking Life, Richard Linklater, 2001

“If we’re looking at the highlights of human development, you have to look at the evolution of the organism and then at the development of its interaction with the environment. Evolution of the organism will begin with the evolution of life perceived through the hominid coming to the evolution of mankind. Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man. Now, interestingly, what you’re looking at here are three strings: biological, anthropological — development of the cities — and cultural, which is human expression.

Now, what you’ve seen here is the evolution of populations, not so much the evolution of individuals. And in addition, if you look at the time scales that are involved here — two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, 100,000 years for mankind as we know it — you’re beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm. And then when you get to agricultural, when you get to scientific revolution and industrial revolution, you’re looking at 10,000 years, 400 years, 150 years. Uou’re seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time. What that means is that as we go through the new evolution, it’s gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within this generation.

The new evolution stems from information, and it stems from two types of information: digital and analog. The digital is artificial intelligence. The analog results from molecular biology, the cloning of the organism. And you knit the two together with neurobiology. Before on the old evolutionary paradigm, one would die and the other would grow and dominate. But under the new paradigm, they would exist as a mutually supportive, noncompetitive grouping. Okay, independent from the external.

And what is interesting here is that evolution now becomes an individually centered process, emanating from the needs and desires of the individual, and not an external process, a passive process where the individual is just at the whim of the collective. So, you produce a neo-human, okay, with a new individuality and a new consciousness. But that’s only the beginning of the evolutionary cycle because as the next cycle proceeds, the input is now this new intelligence. As intelligence piles on intelligence, as ability piles on ability, the speed changes. Until what? Until we reach a crescendo in a way could be imagined as an enormous instantaneous fulfillment of human, human and neo-human potential. It could be something totally different. It could be the amplification of the individual, the multiplication of individual existences. Parallel existences now with the individual no longer restricted by time and space.

And the manifestations of this neo-human-type evolution, manifestations could be dramatically counter-intuitive. That’s the interesting part. The old evolution is cold. It’s sterile. It’s efficient, okay? And its manifestations of those social adaptations. We’re talking about parasitism, dominance, morality, okay? Uh, war, predation, these would be subject to de-emphasis. These will be subject to de-evolution. The new evolutionary paradigm will give us the human traits of truth, of loyalty, of justice, of freedom. These will be the manifestations of the new evolution. And that is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice.”


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An important aspect of this idea of telescopic evolution is to consider the rate of change relative to a single human life cycle. If we take some basic values, such as information transfer as measured in bits, successive iterations of a novel idea/machine/device, or even just the lifespan of the structure of a typical single family-unit residence, and plot these as they change over time, we would probably see the following behavior:

However we measure the 'rate of change' either of technology or culture, we should see that we are approaching a point in human progress where that change is coming close to a threshold relative to humans. The ratio of the rate of change versus the length of a single human life cycle is approaching a significant point in the trajectory of progress.

Perhaps some threshold has already been crossed, making biological evolution secondary to the evolution of the mind. Regardless, it is not a difficult task to imagine the speed at which ideas were generated, combined and mutated in the 1700's as compared to the 2000's. Human civilization, the anthroposphere, digested over a century the transformation of culture and technology due to the advent of the printing press. However, we have had only a decade to assimilate from internet-infancy to global connectivity.

The telescopic nature of evolution supports the idea that biological evolution is no longer an effective means of sustainability - it can no longer wait for successive generations; the transformation/mutation needs to happen within a single human lifetime.

We are approaching the point at which it is not our offspring that propogate the human race, but our thoughts.

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