September 28, 2017

Evolving Ourselves - The Future of Being Human in Nature

Being human in Nature includes our biological responses to the physical world, and our ever-increasing number of new adaptive strategies and improvements to long-standing ones.

Revising the very notions of what 'human' and 'Nature' mean is also included here. Beyond our beliefs, values and behaviors, human cultural adaptation also includes improving the effectiveness and reach of our medical procedures and computer and pharmaceutical technologies.

As we have done with all past inventions and innovations, we will have to confront the ethical and moral challenges such interventions into humanness and Nature raise. In doing so we will seek to normalize those new ideas, methods and technological uses that provide the greatest good and least harm to the greatest number of people. 

Might we one day direct our species' and Earth's evolution? Not in the haphazard, often harmful ways we are doing it now but in a reasoned (scientific and humanistic), deliberative, sustainable manner that truly improves not only our species wellbeing and flourishing, but also that of our entire planetary home.

The following excerpts from the book, Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth, by Juan Enriquez and Steven Gullans (2015), provide insights into some of what is already underway in 'evolving' our future, and what may come of our efforts to redefine the mechanisms and outcomes of our and Life's evolution itself.

September 15, 2017

Roundabout VI


September 14, 2017

I'm not sure I understand this article's title and if the question it poses is answered in the narrative. Your thoughts?
"On this line between beastly machines and angelic rationality, where do we find the human species? If we humans are super-rational, or at least on our way there, there is reason to be optimistic. ... Our cultures are evolving today, but not, it seems, toward any harmony. The chaos of the 21st century makes our simulations feel immediately familiar. ... As intellectuals at both political extremes increasingly see the possibility of a rational political order as a fantasy, Shibboleths take up their role in defining racial, national, and religious boundaries and appear once again to be ineradicable features of political life."


"The [computer simulation] models, at least, encourage a guarded optimism. ... Even the genocidal machines at the violent end of the spectrum may carry a heartening lesson. They emerged from the depths of a circuit board, simulated on a supercomputer in Texas. They had no biological excuse to fall back on. Maybe we, too, shouldn’t make excuses: If a behavior is so common as to emerge in the simplest simulations, perhaps we ought neither to fear it, nor to idolize it, but to treat it, the same way we do cancer, or the flu.

"What if we saw tribalism as a natural malfunction of any cognitive system, silicon or carbon? As neither a universal truth or unavoidable sin, but something to be overcome?"


September 13, 2017

"[T]he lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us."


"A key to that lost or forsworn ability [anthropologist James] Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. ... The secret ingredient [to living a Keynsian life of less selfish greed] seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As [Suzman] says, 'If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.' There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."


September 12, 2017