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Monday, December 8, 2014

Goals and Problems, part two

This essay will make more sense if you look at ‘part one’ first.

The species of great ape to which I belong is characterized by an adaptation unique in biological history: it stores and sorts information gathered from the senses in such a way that the information can be constructed into a “reality” separated from the biophysical Reality in which it originated [1].  This process (adaptation) began in small ways; that is, little sub-realities were manufactured from primary biophysical Reality (as perceived by sense organs).  These sub-realities were (are) of two types: (1) summarizing images or maps of experience and (2) what-if constructions that project details of experience into forms that have not yet occurred, and thus, have not been experienced in fact [2].

There are great and far-reaching implications of this adaptation, but at the moment I am interested in how goals, problems and solutions are created in a goal-less, problem-less and solution-less universe.  The previous essay ends with this with this conundrum.

First and most obviously, given that the whole nature of our adaptation is to create reality-less “realities” as models for specific actionable parts of the biophysical Reality, then the structures upon which our operating systems are based are illusory; a great part of our difficult in getting on in present world results from our failure to realize this simple fact [3].  But, since we are, today, almost entirely dependent of the illusion – as a way of actually acting in Biophysical Reality – giving up illusion is not an option.  This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot or must not recognize illusion, just that when we do recognize it, the machinations of the illusion must be continued until they can be replaced with increasingly less illusory designs.

The reason for this is the way the Consciousness System of Order functions.  Just as genetics is the means by which organisms change to fit their environments (natural or human contrived), so CSO processes are the way that human adaptation proceeds. And the CSO functions on illusions organized from non-random details of Biophysical Reality.  At the most basic level, there is no ground, no tree, no animal, no stream or ocean.  These are atom particles (and smaller) assembled and functioning by principles both of actionable importance and irrelevant to living things.  All living things function at this most primary state of “illusion,” being uninfluenced by and “unaware” of many of the most essential aspects of the physical universe.  The human species has carried this “unawareness” to unprecedented levels, acting in the world as if only their illusory constructions were and are real.

At the most simple level, humans tend to see goals, problems and solutions as central to their existence.  These are the forms by which experience is organized.  In almost all other organisms environmental events are routed through genetically designed physiological and neural processes: there are no goals, problems or solutions; there are only responses.  For humans, CSO processes have been inserted in between environmental sensory event and response [4].  This insertion has, from all the other possibilities, taken the form of goals, problems and solutions.

There is only one reason not to just abandon ourselves to this design; it is an illusion.  So long as environmental Reality had an immediacy in our responses, the illusion was a powerful adaptive device giving the human animal great advantages.  But, as our “successes” grew, becoming exponential, the illusion has come to challenge Reality and has taken primacy in human life.  It is difficult to image a more dangerous situation.

The major events of our present world can be seen as a conflict between the application of the illusions within which we are immersed and the environmental Realities that are impinging on our actions (and that our actions are impinging on!).  There can be no parsing of goals, problems and solutions to the existence of 7 billions of 150 pound animals roaming the earth uprooting its forests, stripping off its soils, exposing the surface to toxic subsurface materials, polluting the surface waters, changing the composition of the atmosphere and so much more.

We can imagine no goal; we can define no problem; there is no solution.  There is only the illusion that our illusions will continue to be effective.

[1] The argument can be quite cogently made that all nervous system – even all physiological – responses to environmental events are sub-reality models and not the environmental realities themselves.  These response systems are sensitive to specific movements of the totality and therefore are not an exact representation of that totality; it could not be otherwise since living systems are specialized material/energy arrangements using very particular parts of the totality to sustain their form and function.  I would argue, however, that there is an immediacy in the relationship of the Living Order to the Physical Order that ties its response models to the biophysical totality, an immediacy that the Consciousness Order is adapted to defeat just as the Living Order is adapted to defeat the immediacy of entropy.

[2] It must be noted that such consciousness created “experience” has no reliable way to be distinguished from sensory-based experience and has become a major source for the dis-integration of human functionality within biophysical functionality.

[3] Some examples to clarify: religions, economic models, political systems, social systems are all illusory: that is, they are based on constructed “realities” with no basis in biological or physical Reality.  They are entirely constructed in consciousness process and exist only as the Stories that we tell about ourselves.  This doesn’t mean, however, that we can do without them; they are the product of the primary human adaptation.  They are simply out of control (by Biophysical Reality) at the present time.

[4] CSO processes are operated on a neural substrate, but are more than a nervous system process in the same way that the primary energy exchanges of life are operated on the behaviors of electrons: the motions of the ameboid cells of a slime-mold would never be predicted from the qualities of an electron!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Goals and Problems, part one

The solution to any problem is primarily made up of two parts: the desired outcome and the options of performance; psycho-bio-physically unattainable goals (or undefined goals) and unperformable actions (or performable actions that are unrelated to the issues) only amplify difficulties.  But, before getting into the human domain of problems, there is context.

In the Physical Order – the overwhelmingly predominant ordering system – there are no goals or problems, only events in process.  In the Living Order there is one primary goal for all living things: continuity of genetic replication – and from that goal, the generation of vast varieties of performable actions.  Problems are a particular kind: How, under specific circumstances, to gather sufficient energy and materials to support the replication of genetic material.  The primary solution to this problem on the earth has been for the genetic material to manifest a phenotype – a biological body with specific capacities to act in the world.  From this “solution,” many trillions of optional manifest forms have acted their genetically programed designs on the world. 

But, the “goal” of the Living Order is of a type unfamiliar in the daily processes of the organism that invented goals. First, there is no apparent repository of that goal; it does not reside as an identifiable entity or structure with an identifiable form like a molecular system, brain, written communication or code in a computing device.  And so we ‘goal givers’ have almost irretrievably distorted our understanding of both the physical and the living state by requiring a human like storage device or entity for what seems to us to be “directed” actions.  And this distortion has completely deformed our understanding of ourselves. [1]

Briefly, the primary goal of the Living Order is contained, in a sense, in the localized stability of the planetary surface.  Millions of millions of chemical and physical options have been given opportunity by that stability; options with vanishingly small probabilities become certainties given near infinities of time and occurrence.  Of these possibilities some tiny few are of such a form that once they form, their design facilitates the generation of others like themselves.  Quite suddenly then, chemical/physical forms that had a tiny probability of occurrence have a much higher probability – so long as the conditions remain stabile or only very slowly changing.  It is this continuity of occurrence that is the sine qua non of life: the essential “goal” of life is, in human terms, no goal at all.

Without goals there are no problems.  Various philosophical and ‘religious’ systems have understood and advocated this reality for thousands of years. It is telling of our natures that so simple, obvious and revelatory a truth should be so thoroughly unheeded.  Our human world seems to be nothing but goals – their attendant problems as far as the eye can see in the distance and future.

Keeping in mind that the vast expanse of the universe has no goals and that the living world of the planetary surface has only the ‘goal’ of, what might be called, molecular momentum, all the myriad goals associated with the human animal, goals which are increasingly influencing the surface of the earth, are completely the production of an evolved adaptation manifest in humans, orders of magnitude beyond its marginal occurrence in other animals.  The very nature of our thought is an evolved process, one of many optional processes that proved efficacious in maintaining the molecular momentum at the moment of its biological selection – like the evolutionary paths that led from retinol to eye ball or calcium storage in brackish water pre-teleost fishes leading to the boney skeletons of land vertebrates.

Human thought is made of goals and problems, options and solutions; and in our most basic and primary ignorance of the realities of a goal-less, problem-less and solution-less world, we attribute the artifice of our processes onto the world as a first reality.

A thoughtful reader might at this point question (I, as a thoughtful writer, ask as well)“How is this analysis any help in mitigating the mal-adaptive behaviors, writ large, of our species?”  The simple and ironic answer is, of course, it is of no particular use: the truth is of no use.  And then, in homage to those ancient souls who figured all of this out 3 thousand or more years ago: it is the only answer.  The truth is of no use and it is the only answer.

Does that sound like gobbledygook? Well, of course, it is and it isn’t.  If you are thoroughly embedded in the goal-problem paradigm, then it is mindless prattle, useless in the discovery of the solutions to our problems.  However, if you can step out of the structures of our evolved adaptations – that ability is actually part of the adaptation – it is possible to begin to realize that problems are solved not by creating new goals, but by recognizing and evaporating the goals that create the problems in the first place.  Some examples:

Personal: The goal – person ‘A’ will meet my needs, which generates the problem that my needs are not met.  Solution – put person ‘A’ into a position where he or she must, under penalty, do what I want.  You see? The goal of having my needs met by person ‘A’ forms the problem that my needs are not met, which creates the goal of forcing person ‘A’ to act as I desire (my goal for that person).  This can go on and on.  Another option would be to discover ways to ‘make’ person ‘A’ want to meet my needs; this is yet another goal generating another set of problems. 

Without the first goal, the rest disappears.  This is what all other animals do – they adapt to their environment rather than attempting to force the environment to act as they wish.  Which should make clear that ‘doing as we wish’ requires a wish – and a need to understand the origin of our wishes!

The political grows from and mirrors the personal process; it is a matter of getting a team together to act on stereotyped goals, problems, options and solutions.  The “intelligence” of 5 people compatibly working together on an identifiable problem is increased over that of the smartest person in the room (assuming a common, openly shared goal).  The “intelligence” of a crowd of a 100 people is reduced to the IQ of the pitchforks they carry.  This both suggests something about the origins of our thought processes and the ways in which we might organize our societies to minimize the complexities of goal setting.

As useful (or useless) as it might be to understand that goal setting is the primary source of our problems in the first place, it no way relieves our most basic biological “illness”: our human adaptation is to create goals and identify problems and options for meeting those goals.  This is a new process and a specialized artifice in an otherwise goal-less universe.  This adaptation has now begun to press against the most basic goal-less “goal” of the Living Order, the molecular momentum of genetic continuity.  The completely goal-less universe is neutral on the subject.

This seems worthy of further consideration.

[1] Many will recognize this as the problem of teleology: the attribution of some ‘purpose’ as a cause.  I am avoiding this language for two reasons.  First, the standard language has been mutilated beyond repair and is no longer cognitively and emotionally related to the issues and, second, the primary distortion of seeing ‘purpose’ as a substantive reality rather than as a Consciousness Order shorthand for a mental process.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Language As Tool And Trap

Here is another compulsive act of futility, another linguistic construction project to add a few more walls to our mental prison: efforts at explanation and clarity so often end up being just as confining as the originating confusions.
Language is a trap – and yet it is the pivotal means by which we expand our options beyond the limitations of the Living System of Order.  Almost any arrangement of words, that meet the basic requirements of syntactical order, can be imbued with behavioral/biological consequences; even non-sense collections of language-like sounds can be so infused given sufficient reinforced repetition.  One need only listen to a random selection of AM radio or eavesdrop on conversations in a coffee shop to realize the arbitrariness with which our language constructs the walls, fences and ditches of our understanding.

The first great danger is that we will assume that language can define the full expanse of our reality; the second great danger is that we will assume that it cannot inform our understanding at all, leaving us, in all appearances, without any device or devices to take on the challenges so obviously before us: the challenges are real beyond language, demanding solutions beyond rhetoric and yet we are left only with language as the means to bring together a sufficiency of organized action to meet them.

And thus, I find myself at a computer keyboard pushing buttons in the essentially vain (both senses) effort to pour the abstraction of Consciousness Order waters onto the concrete reality of Living Order fires: pouring imaginary confetti mixed with imaginary brickbats onto an imaginary parade of war heroes and zombies; it feels a bit like trying to teach algebra to a puppy (that actually knows as much algebra and calculus as it will ever need already. Just watch it catch a Frisbee!).

Well, clearly we humans don’t know all that we need to know.  And this is in main-part because we are trying to know about how to live in the world by how we think about the world.  To put it as bluntly as possible: thinking and its tool, language, did not evolve/adapt to replace living, only to supplement the primary informational impacts of living.  Thinking and language have long since run out beyond the cliff edge like the cartoon coyote (Roadrunner cartoons… an essential metaphor for modern life) and are “running” and “climbing” on the air, suspended only by the ignorance of falling.

So much for my display of angst!  What is to be done?

First and foremost, nothing.  There are 7 billion people on the earth and only some few millions are ready to take on the problem in a meaningful way.  Another several million, the power elites, are positioned to take over, or have taken over, the present distortions for their personal benefit; they have no interest in weakening the vast ignorance rooted in the impunity with which they live.  Hundreds of millions of people might, given a reasonable opportunity, adopt and adapt to ways of life more compatible with the Living Order, but this would require large changes in the metaphors that organize our lives; that is, adopting metaphors that use thinking and language to give up thinking and language as our first organizing principles, but the primary means to control the metaphors is, not without intention, firmly in the hands of the power elites.

Second and second-most, a lot.  There is so much to do!  Getting living right for yourself is the necessary step for getting living right for the larger community; and to do that it is necessary to figuratively (and perhaps literally) step out of the existing communities of experience and expectation (present metaphors).  This is especially true for the organizing functions of status systems.

We, humans, are a primate-pattern animal.  Our social systems come out of the genetics of primate community structure (this is an obvious conclusion of chimp, gorilla and baboon ethology).  Does your computer ever need a hug? Does a Mercedes ‘feel’ better about itself than a Kia?  Does a kitchen appliance blush with pride at a compliment?  The reality is that our primary nature is as a status-based community animal.  Social status systems evolved to organize the community for effective functioning in the ecology; motives of status are as much a part of us as fingers and thumbs.

But social systems have come to be given detail by the metaphors assigned by our stories about ourselves; this is the consequence of our Consciousness Order, a layer of activity laid over the form of our biology like a coat of paint, capable of obscuring inherent form while in no way changing it.

A focus on the details of the many injustices, inequities, crimes and maladaptive misbehaviors that surround us can offer no relief without an underlying change in how we view social status.  In a monumental perversity, we have come to accord high-value status to those who steal the most from the Great Many. 

In a community of equity (not the same as everyone having equal amounts of all production regardless of contribution) and transparency, it is obvious to all participants who is contributing, what and how much; it is also clear who is stealing or attempting to steal from the contributions of others.  It is natural in such a community to have social patterns of status built on cooperation and contributions to social stability and sustenance as well as on displays of power, bravery and possessions.

We will not, of course, as a society or as a species, make such changes; our imaginings are more real than the reality within which and to which we must readapt if we are to continue being a part of the Living Order.  But, that the large collections of us will not recognize and adopt salutary status systems is no reason not to create, value and live in such status systems either personally or within ad hoc communities.

As much as we may wish to avoid the recognition, our situation is simplicity itself.  The world’s billions and the world’s dominating elites cannot and will not lead collected humanity toward ways of living within the limits of ecological necessity [1]; in fact, the world’s billions will collectively demand an unattainable bit more for each and everyone (many with justification and some without) and the power elites will demand continued access to vast excess, imperiously condemning everyone else to servitude and deprivation. 

All that is actually left for those who see the world with some depth and clarity is to construct their own social systems using the larger dominating structures as the “eco-social-systems” within, or upon, which they must live.  This is not the most desirable choice – it is simply the only choice. 

I’m not suggesting lives of quiet desperation, rather lives of deliberate and proud social difference; an active as well as passive rejection of social status systems that give support and value to the theft of labor and the other social contributions made by the vast majority of humanity.  What we call being ‘rich’ can be seen as the crime it is, and more importantly, those who are rich can be socially condemned as accessories before or after the fact as we would anyone else who is part of a criminal conspiracy [2]. 

Most of society is so marinated in the madness of material accumulation, so devoted to the status system and social/economic organizing designs of money wealth, that freeing one’s self from the powerful web of influences is difficult.   Rejecting what “everyone else” believes to be true requires both excellent reasons and personal strength.   I can’t speak to personal strength – that is guided and attained in many ways – but the excellent reasons are piling up fast. 

These reasons are broadly of two types: the failures of our specieshood, that is, the alienation of our biology, with the resulting physical and mental illnesses, by our socially created distortions of reality, and, secondly, the destruction of environment endangering the whole living enterprise as it is presently functioning.  The former creates a creature uprooted from the living earth and arrogant in its powers of destruction and the latter sets the stage for the future of the extant ecological order.

[1] There must be a structural ‘engine’ of change of sufficient range and scope integrated into the existing social order, an ‘engine’ capable of responding to the relevant informational inputs that presage both the necessity and direction of change; there is no such ‘engine.’  The democratic, egalitarian social council of elders – the archetype of decision making for the human community – is a completely compromised design in the present world.  We are left with only raw evolutionary biology as the inevitable uncompromising change machine.

[2] Many social systems have engaged in actions that were eventually realized as immoral and criminal.  Piracy and robbery have often been considered “normal” economic activity by peoples living on trade routes.  Chattel slavery was considered perfectly correct by most Americans only a few generations ago.  The economic and political elites of today are like the slave owners of the past in their attitudes toward those over which they have power; they are like the pirates of the recent past who considered their robberies and murders as the “natural right” of people “smart” enough to get away with them.  How to accomplish such a transition of attitude without the excesses of the French Revolution will be one of the conundrums of the near future.