Archives for category: evolution

30 years ago – 32, to be precise, Francis Fukuyama had come up with the notion that people – as in the human race, had finally realized that liberal democracy was the only reasonable way forward. Hence ‘the end of history’. The end of conflict… the end of ‘misunderstanding’ between people…

“WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democrats’ sweeping attempt to rewrite U.S. election and voting law suffered a major setback in the Senate Tuesday, blocked by a filibuster wall of Republican opposition to what would be the largest overhaul of the electoral system in a generation.”
“The bill, known as the For the People Act, would touch on virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted, striking down hurdles to voting that advocates view as the Civil Rights fight of the era, while also curbing the influence of money in politics and limiting partisan influence over the drawing of congressional districts.
But many in the GOP say the measure represents instead a breathtaking federal infringement on states’ authority to conduct their own elections without fraud — and is meant to ultimately benefit Democrats.
It failed on a 50-50 vote after Republicans, some of whom derided the bill as the “Screw the People Act,” denied Democrats the 60 votes needed to begin debate under Senate rules. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to hold her office, presided over the chamber as the bill failed to break past that filibuster barrier.”

The end of misunderstanding between people?!?

During the Cold War – the end of which had prompted Fukuyama to draw his conclusion, the ‘misunderstanding’ was dividing the two ideological blocs. Between those who had learned to value of the individual and those who didn’t yet had a real chance at doing this.

Nowadays the misunderstanding had seeped deeper. Way deeper…
The two parties of the country which had been the stalwart of democracy during the Cold War don’t see eye to eye as to how the electoral process should be organized.
The Guardians of the Revolution and the Supreme Leader do not agree – at least apparently, on who should be approved to run for office.

Meanwhile, Putin enjoys the limelight….

The end of history, eh?!?

Maybe, but not the one envisioned by Fukuyama…

PS
Fukuyama must be so fed up about this…
Well, I don’t think he was wrong!
I do see liberal democracy as the only reasonable way forward.
The enthusiasm with which the world had met his work was a very strong signal that things were going in the right direction…
The problem resides in the fact that other people had other plans. Had identified other ‘opportunities’.
And in the fact that we, the people, have been sleeping with out boots on!

LE.
The Moldovan officials in charge with running the 2021 snap legislative elections are tying hard to keep the Moldovan citizens living abroad away from the polling stations.


Last minute edit
The Electoral Committee, CEC, had unanimously decided that 150 polling stations will be organized, despite the Foreign Ministry asking for 191 and the Supreme Court ordering them to comply…

Do you see a pattern here?
Well. I see a question mark!
If things like gerrymandering and voter suppression can happen in America, what chances are that authoritarian wannabees won’t spring up all over the world?

“We arise as human beings in the experience of observing ourselves observing.”
Humberto Maturana, The Origin and Conservation of Self-Consciousness, 2005

Thinkers are divided when it comes to ‘reality’.

Some of them, the self styled ‘scientists’, study reality as if it was an ‘exterior’ fact.
At the other end of the spectrum, other people are convinced reality is nothing but a projection/illusion.

To me, this whole thing is yet another example of ‘which came first’, only simpler. Way simpler…

You need a chicken to lay an egg to hatch a chicken. This is indeed complicated…

‘Reality’, on the other hand, is, first and foremost, a human concept!

There was no such ‘thing’ as ‘reality’ until one of our forepersons had come up with the word/concept!

‘And where did that foreperson came ‘in’ from, huh?!?’

Have you noticed the scare marks?

The ‘thing’ we identify as being ‘reality’ had existed since… the Big Bang… I don’t know….
But I do know that nobody called it that – or thought of it in that manner, until somebody did!
And until the peers of that person agreed to use the term and to think about ‘it’ – the ‘thing’, not the word – in that manner.

‘Does this mean that we made ‘reality’?

No, not exactly made it… more about this later…
Only ‘found’ it and ‘measured’ it.
Named it, to put it in a simpler form.

As for who made it… this is another good question.

God?
I argued, in my last post, that ‘God’ – the concept, is yet another human artifact.
The only bridge we could trust to take to the future.

I don’t know, with absolute certainty, whether the whole thing we call ‘reality’ has been made (is constantly being made, as according to the Ash-Arite tradition) by an ‘outside’ agent or it had evolved naturally. But I do know that if our ‘reality’ had been made by somebody then a ‘small’ question begs to be asked.

Who made that somebody’s reality?

I can accept the notion that we are lab rats. Playing in a pen made by some experimenter. Just as we do with/to our lab rats. But exactly as I’m trying to find an answer to ‘how did we come about’, the moment I’ll accept that we’ve been made by some agent will be the moment I’ll start wondering about ‘who pulled this creative agent out of the proverbial hat!’.

Let’s stick with the naturally evolving reality! The alternative is far too complicated…

‘But if had evolved naturally, then nobody made it… right???!’

…No…, not exactly, anyway!
It may have evolved naturally but that doesn’t preclude any factors – and even agents, from chipping away at it!

‘What?!?
Are you gonna make up your mind?
As in once and for all???’

No, I can’t promise you anything like that!
My mind will never be ‘made up’.
My understanding is a work in progress.
I’m constantly adjusting my opinions according to the evidence ‘presented’ to me by ‘reality’.

‘And what about this constantly evolving reality? What/who drives this ‘evolution’?’

What do you see here?
A ‘Nature Made’, volcano whose flanks had been eroded by naturally occurring factors.
The debris had been transported to lower altitudes, by other naturally occurring factors and then transformed into fertile soil by a different class of equally naturally occurring factors.
The factors belonging to the first class had been rain, freeze, wind and gravity while in the second class we point out algae, microbes, plants and animals.
On top, literally, of these natural occurrences we find the consequences of our own actions. Of our own agency.
Of our own choices!

The buildings you see, the farms you know are there, the roads people take when going from their houses to their farms… and so on, up to the top of the mountain. Where we find snow full of other ‘evidence’ of our own existence. Soot, various industrial dust, etc., etc.,…

So. We live at the intersection between the natural evolution of things and the consequences of our previous existence/choices.

We live in a reality increasingly influenced by our own existence.
Are we truly aware of this?

Are we conscient enough?
Enough to realize how much of our reality is of our own doing?

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Reality is tricky.

It includes us. Each of us!

Yet we perceive it as being ‘exterior’. As including the others but not ‘me’. ‘I’ determine what’s real and what not, hence I’m above ‘mere’ reality.

We perceive ourselves as being distinct from the (rest of the) reality yet each of us continuously shares substance and energy with it. We breathe, eat, drink, excrete. We bask in the sun whenever we can during winter and use wind and water to cool ourselves down during hot summer days.

We feel overwhelmed whenever we think about it yet we constantly chip away at it. We build shelters and roads, we grow crops and raise animals, we dig up minerals and transform them into consumer goods. In time, we had displaced most of the ‘Nature’ we have evolved in and replaced it with ‘Man Made’.

Berger and Luckmann had famously – yet somewhat convolutedly, demonstrated that ‘reality’ was a (social) construct.
That what we know about the reality and what we have built based on that knowledge are the consequences of our common effort.

What I’m interested in is the ‘complicated’ manner in which we, each of us, interact with ‘reality’.

We grow up learning about reality. From those around us.
During this process, we simultaneously accumulate knowledge and develop the instrument with which we gauge reality. Our consciences.
Along with this process we also change, together with our teachers and siblings, the very reality we learn about.

Interesting, isn’t it?

We depend, for our dear life, on something we don’t fully understand.
We extract sustenance from it and throw back at it the results of our cravings.
Since our individual knowledge is severely limited, we depend on others – our peers, to complement our understanding of what’s going on around us. Yet in our attempts to fulfill our cravings we mislead some of our siblings.

Reality has been shaped by life from the very first moment. Only in those times, the process was driven exclusively by ‘needs’. The living things of yore did change their reality only they were doing exclusively what they had to in order to survive.
Nowadays, while the rest of the living world continue to follow the ‘time proven traditions’, we – the conscient, and presumably rational, humans, transform the reality according to our wishes.
While we don’t exactly understand what’s going on….

Then how come we’re so snug about the whole thing?

And what’s the meaning of the Adenium Obesum I used to illustrate this post?
I live in Romania. The Desert Rose is a native of the Arabian Desert. Yet one grows, and flowers, in my home.
Only because I afford to heat my ‘shelter’ during winter. And to spend some of my time caring for it.
I don’t really need that plant in order to survive. Yet I’ve changed the reality around me to such an extent that that plant is able to thrive. Almost 4000 km straight North from its native desert….
I’ve been taking care of it for some 4 years now. And I’ve learned only 5 minutes ago that its sap is toxic… What was I telling you about us not being fully aware of our actions?

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One of the hardest decisions an agent gets to make is to choose between

and

Otherwise put, are we to allow evolution to proceed?

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‘Don’t mend it if it’s not broken’ makes perfect sense for something which already exists. And works ‘good enough for us’.

But when you get to make something a second time? Or even the one million-th time?

What keeps you from ‘experimenting’?
If the expected marginal benefits are greater than the potential marginal costs, of course!

Where conditions had been ripe:

The market had become free.
Free for more and more people to search for new ways to meet their needs.
This freedom had allowed the market to become efficient enough for more and more people to be able to satisfy some of their wishes, on top of most of their needs.

Agora had become free.
So free that politicians had to solve more and more of the real problems encountered by the society at large.
Life had become so free that states had become prosperous.

And more and more of the people were happy!

Now, the market is so free that more and more people have started to search for ‘really’ new ways to meet their wishes. Eventually, they came to be known as ‘financial engineers’. The market is no longer the place where people meet to satisfy their needs but the place where some of them accrue huge sums of money while more and more of the rest find it harder and harder to survive.

The Agora is also at its freest.
‘Political marketeers’ have taken over from the ‘the old school’ – and ‘real’ politics have been replaced with ‘give the people what they want’. Political life is no longer about solving problems. It has become a relentless quest for power.
Keeping things ‘afloat’ is no longer THE goal, only a cost.

Is this sustainable?

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You cannot explore the limits of something without knowning what that something is.
You might not know how that thing works, or came to be, but you need to have at least some idea about what that thing is!

So, ‘What conscience is?’

Huh?!?

‘Cognitive function…’, ‘ability to tell right from wrong’, ‘self awareness’… you name it.
Rathern confusing, isn’t it?
Specially when you already had a clear idea about what the word used to mean… Or was that only an impression?!? An ilussion, actually?

Let me introduce you to my version of things.

Everything that surrounds us has a ‘discrete’ nature.

Both matter and energy are, ultimatelly, made of quanta.
Certain theoretical considerations suggest that time and space are multiple of Planck time and space units, respectivelly. Any lenght, in time and/or space, smaller than a Planck unit not having any sense. The argument being the facts that the speed of light is limited and that matter/energy itself (which fills the space and generates time) is of a discrete nature. As in ‘made of quanta’.

And this ‘discrete nature of things’ is visible at every level.

We have quanta, quarks and other elementary particles, atoms, molecules/crystals. And ‘objects’.
We have substances, membranes, cells, organisms, species. And individuals.

When our scientifically minded forefathers first tried to make some sense of what we had already learned about the world, they had come up with the notion of ‘states of matter aggregation’. Or ‘phases of matter’.
At first, there were three of them. Solid, Liquid and Gaseous.
Currently, we recognize five. Solid, Liquid, Gaseous, Plasma and Bose-Einstein Condensate. The first four are deemed to be ‘natural’ while the last is considered to have been ‘made by man’.

The main difference between them being the manner in which the components ‘stick’ to each other. The amount of force with which each of them interacts with its neighbors.
The same ‘level of internal interaction’ governs the way in which various ‘objects’ interact when they ‘meet’. Two clouds of gas interact differently than two bodies of water. Which interact differently than two rocks. Furthermore, a stream of gas interacts differently with a liquid than with a solid object. And so on….

My point being that the ‘phase of matter’ one object belongs to determines the manner in which that object interacts with its exterior.

‘OK, somewhat interesting but rather hard to follow… anyway, what has any of this to do with ‘conscience’?!?’

Given what I’ve already written, where would you put a living organism? In what ‘phase of matter’?
Is it solid? Liquid? Gaseous? Plasmatic?!? Or, given the fact that it contains all three ‘classic’ phases it’s closer to a Bose-Einstein condensate?

For lack of a better word, I consider ‘conscience’ to be a ‘state of matter aggregation’.

We’ve associated ‘being conscious’ with self awareness. With the human version of self-awareness… the one described by Humberto Maturana. ‘The learned ability to observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.
I suggest that we point our attention towards any other living organism. And notice that it acts as if it was aware of itself. It keeps its inside separate from the outside. It choses what to ingest. What of it to digest. And what to excrete. Sometimes even where to excrete. Then it passes the instructions according to which it had performed all these tasks towards the next generations.

Or would it be more suitable to consider ‘life’ itself as a ‘state of matter aggregation’? And consciousness as a property of life? As hardness is for solids and viscosity is for fluids/gases?

‘And what about ‘the discrete nature of things’? What has this to do with ‘conscience’?’

You see, I’ve just proposed ‘conscience’ as ‘state of matter’. That ‘phase’ where life takes place.
That place where individual organisms interact, among themselves and with their environment, attempting to survive. And to pass on the information contained in them.
We, humans, have taken ‘conscience’ to the next level. Our conscience is far more than the natural tendency to uphold the functionality of the individual organism. We observe ourselves in the act of observing. We set what is good, and bad, for us. We set goals.

Sometimes without being aware that our goals might hurt us.
The individual ‘us’.
And the collective us.
The collective us which makes us, individuals, possible.

Primum non nocere!

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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501646

‘Exploring what?!?
We don’t know yet how conscience came to be, nor how it works, and you want to explore its limits?
What are you talking about?’

First of all, Humberto Maturana has proposed a very astute explanation about how our conscience has evolved into what it is today. After our brains had happened to ‘accrue’ enough computing power, our ability to speak among ourselves had created the condition for us to cooperate towards the development of ‘self-awareness’. Towards our learned ability to ‘observe ourselves in the act of observing‘.

‘OK, I can accept that.
But we still don’t know exactly how it works. How the brain ‘exsudes’ consciousness!’

Well… do you know exactly how a computer works? Or how your car transforms fuel into energy and transports you to work and back?
Does your lack of detailed understanding prevent you from using a computer? Or from driving a car?

Does your lack of detailed knowledge about how things work prevent you from understanding – and accepting, the fact that the things you use have limits? That you cannot ‘overstretch’ any of them?

‘?!?… It’s my mind you’re talking about, dude!
What do you want to say? That my ability to understand things and to act as a rational human being is limited?!?’

Yep!
You got it perfectly.
In one go…

If you want to read some more about your limits, please help me to overcome mine:

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Not because I’ve noticed how easy it is to be successfull as a con-artist. If you have what it takes, of course.
Far easier than it is to be successful as a bone fide entrepreneur, for example.
No, this wasn’t exactly news.

I’ve got the blues when I realized how many people are OK with this!
Without even beeing aware of it…

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If you need to dig deeper, you might want to read Aja Raden’s The Truth about Lies, 2021.

Turning your head to re-examine past experiences is liable to yield previously unnoticed aspects.
Sometimes important ones…

Many people attempt to convince us that evolution is about ‘the survival of the fittest’.
Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is, 2002, aptly explains that ‘evolution is not as much about the survival of the fittest as it is about the demise of the unfit’!
Have you ever heard about the guy?

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Evolution, the phenomenon, is driven by small alterations in the environment.
The individual organisms which cannot cope with the alteration do not survive, The surviving ones – the ‘siblings which find it in then how to cope, thrive because of the relative abundance of specific resources. The species survives.
If not enough of the individual organisms are able to survive the alteration, the whole species disappears. The odd survivors might mutate – or not, and establish a new species. Or not…

The current alteration of the environment in which we, humans, need to first and foremost survive is COVID-19.

The difference between us, humans, and the rest of the species subjected to evolution being our ability to purposefully communicate amongst us the information we have been able to gather. NB, ‘communicate’ doesn’t always guarantee ‘honesty’.

Viruses – simple strings of genes, also known as pieces of information, which had happened to evolve into their present form, have no motivation. Furthermore, it’s impossible to determine the full motivation of those who spread misinformation about anything – or even whether they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. Hence, I’m going to ‘glance back’ at COVID using a purely evolutionary eye.

I’ll start by letting you in on something I witnessed earlier this morning.
Waiting for the traffic light to change, at a crosswalk, I overheard two guys talking about the virus. The older – by some five odd years , was trying to convince the other that ‘This thing is nothing but a scam. There is something out there, indeed, but the numbers are too small for it to be as dangerous as advertised by those who want to herd us into submission’. Both were close to my age, 60, but there was a marked difference between them. The ‘denier’ was more opinionated – a more sure of himself, but was carrying his age a lot worse. And you could read on the face of the other one that this was not the first time that he had heard that… and that he knew how useless it was for him to tell anything. Anything to the contrary, of course.

It was then when it hit me. I had almost the same sensation as when I first listened to Deep Purple’s Space Trucking….

People die of this thing. The weaker the earlier. Some will survive. The species still has a future.

Yeah… only our awareness has added another layer on this evolutionary mess. It’s not only our individual immune systems which fight this infection. The health care systems organized by the communities take care of the sick ones. The sanitation systems take care of the dead. The ‘Big Pharma’ have already provided us with ‘weapons’ to fight back. The governments attempt to organize the whole survival effort.

This whole thing has veered way off from our classic view of evolution.
‘Passing through’ is no longer a matter of individual prowess. Or luck.

It has become a matter of cooperation.
Or a matter of dis-information…

Going forward, two scenarios can be imagined.

A few of us survive the actual disease, enough of us get vaccinated and we reach herd immunity. Sooner rather than later. We learn our lesson and life goes on, with some adjustments.

The ‘COVID is a scam’ scenario gets enough traction to convince a sizeable proportion of the population to refuse the vaccine. Periodic bouts of the infection prevents us from regaining a modicum of normal life. More and more people will start resorting to ‘strange behaviors’.
So strange that I don’t even want to imagine.
The worst being the fact that whenever in ‘dire straits’, people are more inclined to accept various forms of authoritarianism.

Do you feel compelled by public pressure to wear a mask and take the jab?
You consider this to be ‘dictatorial’?

Wait till the next wave of infection crashes over our heads!

And why have so few of us heard about Ernst Mayr?
‘Survival of the fittest’ plays better into our ‘confirmation bias’.
‘We’re still here, then we must surely be doing something really well. Luck has nothing to do with it and nobody has ever given us any free lunch. Everything we’ve achieved was due solely to our own efforts! None of us needs anything from anybody else!’
Anything which contradicts this dearly held conviction will be met with a strong opposition. Denial, even.
At the subconscious level, of course!

‘I refuse to wear a mask’ not as much because ‘I don’t care about your fate’ but because I don’t want to acknowledge that I need your cooperation towards our mutual survival!

Me and my broken promises… what on Earth made me bring motivation into discussion?!?

Time is but the consequence of matter/energy interacting with itself.

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And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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There was no time to speak about before matter divorced energy.

Nobody was actually aware of time passing by until we started counting Sun’s revolutions.

Earth turning round the Sun is matter interacting with itself.

We, humans, are a consequence of evolution. Of matter interacting with itself.

History – the times be bothered to record, is a consequence of human interactions.

Environment is the consequence of the living things interacting with the rest of the planet.
The current state of our ‘backyard’, the Earth, is, increasingly, the consequence of our interaction with the environment.

Time might be passing its own.
We used to count it.
Nowadays, we’re the ones driving it.