19 June 2005

Evolution by Indirection

How would you get from here, between levels, to the next level? How do short-lived bipeds of mediocre intelligence, gossip-mongers, delusional mob thinkers and actors--how do we get there from here?

Virtually nothing in nature travels by straight line. The same is true for evolution. Evolution twists and turns like a lazy river. Watching a slow moving river on a quiet day you would never guess at all the floods, torrents, and deluges. Observe a branching evolutionary tree. Cover the top half with a sheet of paper and ask someone to predict which of the lower branches will survive to the top level. You are tempted to say that one cannot get there from here, going from the root to the uppermost branch. But you can indeed trace the maze-like connection, once you see to the top.

A man drives along a rainy street at night, trying to see through the thick falling drops to the street where he must turn. He sees that he is almost to the street and begins his turn-but something makes him pause. Suddenly a motorcycle with dim headlights surprises the man and bursts through the rain. The motorcycle passes through the space the man's car would have occupied if he had proceeded to turn. Why did the man pause his turn?

Another man puzzles over a scientific problem. He cannot make head nor tail of the problem no matter how he thinks about it. Then, while the man is sleeping before a fire, in a dream, the solution comes to him. What caused the answer to suddenly appear in a dream?

A third man struggles to climb a sheer cliff, hundreds of feet off the ground. He is tired and in a precarious position. He has to move and as he moves suddenly he feels himself start to fall. He tries to compensate but his imbalance gets worse. Suddenly he relaxes and his body moves, as if on its own, precisely to the position that allows him to recover and move on. Why did he relax when he was in danger of falling, and why did letting go of his rigid mental grip allow his "mindless body" to recover?

We can try to picture the path we need to follow in becoming next level humans. But we cannot see enough of the maze to see through to the end. Perhaps we are holding on too rigidly to our present concepts, preventing us from making the transition to concepts that would facilitate growth. Our evolution may not be smooth. Like a river, we may have to live through the floods and deluges. Ice dams may have to break to release enough hydraulic power to shape our future selves.

Some of the answers may come to us in our sleep. We will forget most of them in our "waking" to everyday life. Some of us may remember a few things. What we do with the things we remember will determine how smoothly we can make the change.

Imagine someone such as Stalin or Kim making the transition to long life and super intelligence. Imagine the suffering of most humans under such an unending regime of horror and death. Such a thing is not likely.

Next level humans will arrive via lateral thinking and indirection. Edward de Bono has written several books on the lateral thinking methods of problem solving. As we learn more about how the human brain actually works we will learn better ways of using it. Then, as we learn how the human genome shapes the human brain in concert with the larger environment, we will learn better ways of making smarter humans. That frightens a lot of people.

That is because most humans are easily frightened. Most humans will not be capable of stepping beyond themselves. The habit of thinking with the group, of seeking reassurance from the group, will hold them back. Next level humans will be fiercely independent. Next levels will be too independent to want to use their potency to control masses of primitives and between-levels. They have places to go, things to do, and much to learn.

Humans are not rational in the way computers are rational. Humans are much more. Human minds function in an indirect manner. Emotions are at the heart of the human mind. Deep within the human mind, apparently another mind resides, a mind capable of solving problems that the superficial mind has difficulty solving directly. The deeper, more indirect, mind has trouble communicating with the superficial mind. Bridging that communications gap is just one problem that independent and intelligent between-levels need to solve, to evolve.

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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