This is a guest post by Lynne Desilva-Johnson, cross-posted from her blog, The Trouble with Bartleby
That is to say, I propose that we are in the process of evolving our selves, not only generationally but laterally.
Which brings us to The Big Caveat:
I am not an empirical scientist, nor is the book by any means an empirical exercise.
If there must be a title, I am a philosopher (and poet) …though I am fond of “alchemist,” as well.
While I am the first to admit that while my background includes a love of an relationship to hard science, I also wish to stress from the outset that neither I nor this book intends or suggests to offer the type of “truth” allowed for via empirical methodologies.
In fact, this study relies on the opposite: an understanding of strict empiricism as limited by our own perceptual limitations. At the same time, though, it always allows for and wishes to engage with those instances where (despite our limitations) we feel, intuit, perceive, detect, and are able to document “proof” allying with my theoretic explorations — in the lab or beyond.
The first hint in cyberspace that this project was underway was my recent call for “forward thinking evolutionary biologists or similar” which went out into the twittersphere as well at to the Next Edge and Federation/Emergence Collective groups via Facebook — a move which has already and will continue to prove essential to the evolution of the book, in ways that in fact demonstrate some of the concepts I will outline as we move forward.
That is to say — our evolution, in the way I propose (which isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon) has been accelerated to the point of visibility only via its collusion with a peak in technological/systems capabilities that have allowed our patterns of communication to begin operating at a similar speed and in similar, seemingly “chaotic” patterns — algorithms central to other organic/universal (ie, biologial, mathematical, ecological, astological) phenomena.
Not only do I have no wish to claim this book as empirically “true,” I also have no desire for a traditional, academic-intellectual-ontological “ownership” of its evolution in my own psyche. As I pull from my various inputs and experiences, the exponential bibliography of study and happenstance that has led to my being able to derive and put forth this treatise, I wish to humbly put forth that this is OUR book. I happened to have the series of personal, epistemological crises necessary for its emotional outcropping and eventual writing but I also know it to be the outcome of interactions, systems, energies, and knowledge far beyond my capacities.
Considering that I still, somehow, work two jobs totalling 50-odd hours a week (neither of which are at a computer), am doing my very best to give all I can in support of Beckett Rose and her Daddies, and co-edit a magazine launching next month, I am grateful to still have the mental acuity to write this at all! What this means, though, is that posts more frequently than monthly are unrealistic.
In the interim, of course, I will continue to seek collaborators and resources, and of course will be very grateful for any guidance towards (or offers of) funding to help me complete this project. I may, in fact, decide to Kickstart it… but I’m still very Borges-like in my fear of over-publicizing something yet so nascent beyond a controlled sphere.
What you see below is a guiding quote, from French lettrist Gabriel Pomerand, and my working Table of Contents. I hope that within a week or so I’ll be able to post another introductory blog further unpacking the essential theoretical components behind this hypothesis… please note that as these first theoretical ideas form they are not always entirely ready for deconstruction and deep dissection, and as such I may not automatically engage in theoretical debate (yet).
Contents May be Under Pressure
Preface: Intention and Goals, Framework, Intellectual Heritage
Introduction: “Aevolution” unpacked: theory and practice
The Science and Spirituality Dialectic:
Avant Garde/Creative Experimentation and Expression
Evolution of “Language”/Universal Communication
Channels of Practice: Tattoos, Technology, and Transcendence
– Auto-Aesthetic and Interperceptual Markmaking – Includes/not limited to Body Modification and Dress
Conclusion: AEvolutionary Manifestation and Intention: A Practical Guide
Yes please! Put your project on kick starter. Can’t wait to buy a copy. I find your writing very interesting, thought provoking and inspirational.
Laurence J. Victor said:
Lynne, as I read of your awesome challenge in conceptualizing AEVOLUTION for your writing project, some of the following context was stimulated. You are obviously free to use this information as you desire and I have no intention influencing what you think or write. I simply share my context.
I agree fully with your view of “auto” change. “Auto” calls for a re-definition of “natural”. Even the new “theories” of evolution (described below) are confined to a “natural world” where human creativity/agency is epiphenomenal. Though the whole cosmos/universe being “alive” and “conscious” remains speculation, our immediate challenges call for a practice that brings human creativity/agency forefront. We cannot wait for “natural evolution” to magically liberate humankind. Indeed, as you will see, maybe our using the term “evolution”, whether auto or natural, may be limiting our options. I am intrigued as to how you develop the specifics cited in your proposed Table of Contents. The details of how our human agency will emerge in the next few decades is only beginning to be revealed and I expect some major surprises.
Evolution is a word, a label for a type of change. Change has been a major research theme for me. I discovered early the complementarity of “change” and “things that change”. Both concepts are intimately tied together, although humans have a tendency to keep them separate in their obsession with categorization. I have recently shifted, in my thinking, to an equal parity for a process ontology (which gives focus to change as the basic reality) and an existential ontology (which gives focus to things). This shift was catalyzed by the writings of Andrew Pickering; The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future (2010) & The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science (1995). My earliest interest in change was in the context of “time” as a physicist and philosopher of science. I developed my own perspective of Relativity by claiming “there is no thing called time” – only events with temporal and spatial relations. Imaging a fundamental backdrop for events and things (space-time) was a barrier to comprehending the strange nature of change as revealed by Relativity Theory.
Before I chose to study physics in college I had considered paleontology. My high school biology textbooks had the chapter on evolution removed (in NW Penna). My father had to borrow books for me from the public library on evolution and embryology, where I became fascinated on the detailed cellular changes from conception to birth. I engaged in many evolution debates in 1950-52. I have followed the changes in how science views biological change over the decades.
I discovered that in Darwin’s day the term “evolution” was used to label a type of change for which it is no longer used in science. “Evolution” for Darwin was a process of deterministic unfolding – best exemplified by the embryological development: a causal chain of sequential transformations. Today we know that embryological development is much more complex and not so causally determined – but the myth of DNA determinism (which came much later, after Darwin) persists. Darwin’s model of random variation and natural selection in his The Origin of Species was a quite different process. Variation/Selection as a type of change has been applied to systems changing other than animal and plant species. For example, Bickerton and Calvin’s speculative theory considering the biological foundations of symbolic representation and their influence on the evolution of the brain.
Most scientists, and most people interested in science, are unaware of the vast changes in our ideas of biological, social, and spiritual change that have changed in the past few decades and are continuing to change. A recent book by a very competent historian of science, Jan Sapp, reveals the details of centuries of change in thinking about change: The New Foundations of Evolution (2009). The book details the ongoing changes in viewing the importance of microbiol life in reconsidering the entire foundation of biological evolution. Except for those active in research in these areas, most people still view “evolution” from the now seriously outmoded theories of Darwin and the neo-Darwinian successors.
Darwin correctly presents a model for the modification of species over time. However, variation/selection has never actually accounted for the “origin” of species. The utility of the concept of “species” itself is questioned, as it has no application in the microbiol kingdoms, has always been controversial for plants, and now shows some leakage even for animals. Furthermore, there has never been a “science of origins”. Science has always been a study of transformations. A “form” is modified by sequential applications of forces, leading to new forms. Indeed, scientific explanation for most involves the positing of “mechanisms” of transformation. Although “emergence” is now emergent as an alternative to transformation, the two remain entangled in most minds. Science attempts to study emergence in the context of transformation unaware that emergence calls for the creation of a new type of science (or investigative process).
Few are aware that whole genomes can be transferred between organisms. See: Acquiring Genomes: A Theory of the Origins of Species by Lynn Margulis & Dorion Sagan. Sapp also goes into the details of this process that brings into question even the “tree of life” model. Epigenetics has revised the concept of the transmission of acquired traits and Lamarck has been rehabilitated. Sapp reports how Lamarck has been distorted by traditional histories of science – another chapter in the underbelly of science as a human endeavor with all the problems that come with human social systems. See Steve Fuller’s Social Epistemology: Science, Technology, and Society (1988) for the gory details.
The story of the emergence of eukaryotic cells (component cells for plants and animals) from a social merger of bacteria continues to unfold. My “poem” from 2009:
VISIBLE Life (animals & plants)
are but as hairs sprouting from the
INVISIBLE microbial (bacterial) substrate.
Billions of years ago microbes gathered in communities
within larger cells to create protists,
which eventually organized as eukaryotic
(DNA nucleated) cells,
which organized, in time,
into multi-celled animals and plants.
On the mental and spiritual plane,
human individualism conflicted with compassionate collectivism
closely parallels similar paradoxes
in the earlier bacterial world of early life on Earth.
Competition, Cooperation, Collaboration, Community
Merged and Integrated
Then, and Now?
What follows here is copy/pasted from my own project-in-process using bacteria as a metaphor for human individualism emergent towards a complementary collectivity.
The Emergence of Eukaryotic life from Prokaryotic life is a metaphor for the emergence of a future Humanity.
How the world of VISIBLE LIFE emerged as “hair” on the microbiol world of INVISIBLE LIFE can teach us much about the more recent and ongoing emergence of cognitive life from biological life.
We are as Nu-Amphibians. We are more than biological.
What is unique about humans is beyond biology, but dependent on biological substrates.
The woven worlds in the brains/bodies of humans are analogous to bacteria. The manner bacteria exchange DNA and thus transform their cellular natures, so – in analogy – humans exchange information (or, alternatively structurally couple as Autopoietic systems) which transforms their respective inner, woven worlds. Inner worlds and information are analogs for bacterial cells and DNA. These inner woven worlds include perceptual worlds and so-called external worlds.
This takes us beyond biology. If today our inner, woven worlds are like the prokaryotic cells, then what for humans are the analog equivalents of eukaryotic cells and multicelled beings?
The nucleus containing DNA in chromosomes is the result of different bacteria living within other bacteria discovering (via evolution) the efficiency of central storage of DNA programs common to all. For eukaryotic humans, this may be found in a semfield shared by all human members of a population (the internet is a primitive semfield). A semfield is a network of semiotic structures (e.g. text, graphics, videos) that are frequented by all as a town square would be frequented by community members. This shared semfield is resource for the woven worlds of all to be sufficiently similar for sustained survival/thrival. These inner worlds need not be classically deterministic and eventually may differ considerably from the inner worlds woven by prokaryotic humans.
Our primary difficulty today is that most people view themselves as autonomous individuals living in a common, external world. We claim people behave differently because they have distorted views of their common world. We hope bombarding them with sems they will gain a more accurate view of the common world. But, we will never know our objective reality; for each of us the world we weave IS OUR WORLD. We all behave consistent with OUR WORLD.
Because different humans tap into different parts of the contemporary, chaotic semfield, they weave wildly different worlds for themselves. This is a subtle difference of ourselves being WORLDS or Individuals-in-Worlds; but the difference may be critical for our survival.
No one knows the wider world of economics and politics, organizing and learning except through sems. Yet we attribute the social systems we create with a reality equivalent to what we experience of our very immediate environments that we mutually see and can gesture agreement within.
The new Humanity may emerge from a special population who agree to create and maintain a common semfield. This would be a feature of my proposed Bootstrap Uplift Scaffolding. The common semfield would not be ideologically bound. Conflicting positions may occur in the semfield; what is important is that they are common to all. The common semfield would be structured to be open to change and not like FOX news, which attempts a common semfield but closed and indoctrinating.
Another biological metaphor relevant to 21st century changes: metamorphosis. As far as I know I was the first to propose this metaphor (in 1975) and it remains core to my scenarios. A key concept for metamorphosis is that it is our exemplar of temporally extended emergence. The butterfly does not result from a transformation of the caterpillar. Neither will our future humanity result from a transformation of contemporary societal structures or processes. Societal imaginal buds are everywhere. What is yet to emerge is the process for synergy/collaboration that will seaf (support/enable/augment/facilitate) our coming together.
One additional metaphor, from molecular biology. Enzymes are proteins that mediate other protein-protein interactions, greatly accelerating the process – even enabling completion which without enzymatic action would have been disrupted by environmental turbulence. If human teams/communities are analogs to proteins, I propose a new family/network of human teams/communities who SEAF (support/enable/augment/facilitate) synergy/collaboration between more traditional teams/communities working their projects/expeditions. This is an extension of Shoshana Zuboff’s The Support Economy (2002). A SEAF network can manifest the miraculous.
Lynne, I hope that this will be of some use. Larry/nuet
lynne desilvajohnson (@OnlyWhatICan) said:
Justin, Lawrence — thanks for the support! Keep your eyes peeled for a kickstarter announcement… 🙂
Lawrence — I’ll be in touch with you directly asap. So grateful for your sharing with me here.
Huh, very interesting. I look forward to hearing more about this.
Laurence, that was just what I needed to hear to get me kickstarted on some more microbiology studies, thank you, what you said rang with me very well and I have never heard the term semfield before. I love semiotics so thank you very much for the new term. Would you suggest any resources for an aspiring semiologist?
Laurence J. Victor said:
I coined the term semfield to go with my abbreviation of sem for semiotic structure. I also must confess that I never actually studied formal semiotics. Over the years I skimmed a few books but found the discipline too formal for my tastes. Other than working with symbols in math and science and exploring alternative symbolic systems, the seminal book for me was Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990. And, I admit I have yet to read his newer work, including a major revision of the 1990 book. I am still into Sapp’s book and find it most enlightening although a bit dry with historical detail. I find it a case study of the struggles of scientists working with and through their paradigms. The relationship between all living beings is a pattern that has had many twists and turns over the centuries and is still emerging.
You might be interested in a paper I gave at a General Systems meeting at Asilamor in 1994 titled THE FUNDAMENTAL REALITY OF TEXT. I just re-read this paper, after over a decade, and am astonished about how much of value I included in it.
Pingback: OF LOVE AND OTHER CURRENCIES « heroesandhobos