Archives for posts with tag: survival

Existence takes place ‘inside’ while things happen in-between.

Survival is a matter of preserving, ‘as is’, what already exists while evolution is about change and might involve ‘dismissal’.

Everything may survive while only ‘living’ things are capable of evolving on their own.

At some point, evolving organisms became complex enough to ‘feel’.
Not only complicated enough to react in an orderly – a.k.a. pre-programmed, manner but also to generate emotional reactions – which can be remembered, when certain things happen in their vicinity. Things which are important for the survival of the feeling organisms. As a consequence of the ‘feeling’ process, data regarding the happened occurrences are stored by the feeling organisms as information. Which information may help the organism in its struggle to survive. Using that information, that organism might become a ‘better version’ of itself.

At a further point in the evolution of ‘things’, organisms have added another layer of complexity.
They have become complex enough to ‘think’. As in complex enough to attempt to maximize the effects of the information they have at their disposal.

That was when ‘facts’ had been identified as being ‘things’ which had had consequences, when data had been identified as being information and when the thinkers had discovered that thinking was driven by sentiment.

Which sentiment is nothing but an evolution of the ‘survival instinct’.
Present in any living organism.
Which survival instinct is nothing but the living equivalent of something the physicists have identified as inertia.

Go figure….

Messages which are knowingly incomplete, false or both at the same time.

Why?

Because they have no alternative, want to achieve something or need to survive.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness – read consciousness, they realize that no ‘communication event’ will ever be complete. That nobody will ever be able to communicate everything they know, about the most insignificant subject, to anybody else.

Then what? Stop talking?
Or assume personal responsibility for everything that leaves your lips?

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, they realize there’s more in life than mere survival.
As soon as their consciences bloom – in concert with the accrued influence exercised by the ‘environment’, individuals set goals for themselves. Which goals become integral part of the ‘ongoing project’. Of the self-actualizing conscience. Achieving, or failing, each of those goals leaves an indelible mark on the conscience itself. On the manner in which each individual relates to their environment.
Since achieving is far more ‘satisfying’ than failing, conscience is naturally biased towards ‘achieving’. If the ‘environment’ ‘allows’ it, the bias becomes more and more ‘slanted’.
The messages used by the individuals – by their conscience, to be more precise, will increasingly serve the purpose of achieving goals rather than the purpose of ‘honest communication’.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, that conscience wants to survive.
Mind you, not the person but the conscience.

‘?!?
Conscience cannot exist without the mind/body which supports it….’

OK, tell that to people who believe their souls are going places after their mortal bodies expire. Then try to demonstrate to yourself, honestly, that those people are wrong. That there’s no chance for their belief to be ‘true’.

But metaphysics are hard.
Let me give you a far lighter example.
Smoking. Or drinking. Driving fast. Eating that extra piece of chocolate…
Don’t tell me you never did anything ‘foolish’. That you never lied to yourself: ‘This cannot happen to me. Chances are so small that … Only this time….’

‘But otherwise nobody would ever be able to ‘leave their houses’. We’d be all completely paralyzed with fear…’

Yeap! That’s exactly what I mean. Conscience needs to lie to herself in order to remain functional. Otherwise she would not allow the physical body who sustains her to assume any risk.
They would both suffocate.

Maybe it’s to early… I’ll take my chances though.

Germany has weathered this crises a lot better than most of her neighbors.

There are no toll- booths on the German highways. Not that I know of, anyway.

And what has this to do with anything?!?

Well, does your heart bill you for its services?
Your lungs? Your gut? Brain?
The immune system?
Even if each of them works at a cost… for the whole organism!

The health care system is the social equivalent of the immune system.

We, each cultural community around the world, might treat it as an industry. Fine tuned to maximize profit.
Or as a social service. Meant to protect the society from the consequence of disease. And run as efficiently as possible, of course. But sized to be able to cope with reasonably estimated ‘loads’.

There is a fine balance to be held here, of course. A multi-dimensional equilibrium, actually.

It depends on us, as individual members of the brain, to fine tune that equilibrium.

Or else…

All outcome depends on inputs.
When humans are involved, ‘intent’ can be found among inputs.

What do we want, in the present situation?

Basically, to survive! Right?

For as long as possible… as individuals…

The fact that the sum of our individual survivals results in the survival of our species/cultures is a truism. And, maybe, not so important for some of those struggling to survive as individuals.

The point I’m trying to make here being that how we attempt to survive will decisively influence the general outcome.

We might try to survive against the others.
Or we might try to survive with the others. In close – even if ‘distant’, cooperation with the other members of our community/culture/species.

And while surviving we might try to amass whatever we want. Of whatever we’ve always wanted. Doesn’t matter what ‘that’ is. Money, power, prestige… you name it.

Or we might learn something. We might turn Maslow’s Pyramid on its head.
We might use this crises as an opportunity to understand that we’re stronger together.
That cooperation among autonomous individuals generates a lot more chances of survival than attempting to pass through as individuals.
As a lonely individual or as an individual hiding in the middle of a crowd, doesn’t matter.

And we should bear in mind that surviving the crises will be only the first step.
How we do it will shape the stepping stone for how we’ll rebuild our livelihoods.

Life, in general, is a matter of calibrating the intercourse between the inside of the organism and the environment in which it tries to survive. Or thrive…

Social life, both in general and in particular, is a matter of calibrating social intercourse between the members of a society in such a manner that, statistically speaking, the individual members would find it easier to survive/thrive in the given physical environment.
Simply because each surviving/thriving individual adds resilience to the social organism/network.

COVID-19 is nothing but yet another test.
For now – for as long a so many of us are still in ‘surviving mode’, it doesn’t matter “how” or “why”.
All that matter is ‘what’.

“What WE do about it!”

Distance ourselves from the others and allow the pandemic to cool down?
Distance ourselves from the others and allow each of our individual minds to think for itself?

While keeping in mind that long term survival requires the physical presence of as many of us as possible? That our own long term well being requires us to cooperate towards that common goal? As Adam Smith taught us?

Then things will eventually cool down.

And we will have been learned yet another thing.

Both individually and as a cultured species.

How often do you hear this expression?
Are you OK with it?
Because you’ve grown accustomed with it or because you are OK with the idea of politics being a contest? A game to be won?

In a certain context, I’ve been asked which game is a more ‘fitting description’ of politics. Chess or Go?

Both being, as I’m sure you already know, strategic games where all ‘tactical’ information is above the board, where the scope is to ‘control the territory through the smart use of available resources’ and where neither of the competitors have any real idea of what their opponent might have in mind.
Yes, there are rules and limitations. Of course. So each of them are able to divine a ‘probable course of action’ but …

Going back to politics, I’ll just quote myself:

“Politics like Go… very interesting question.
Go is a game. Something to play with. And play is very important, indeed. Through play, we hone skills used in real life. When playing, it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. There’s something to be learned in both situations.
While in real life, loosing is not an option.
In playing, all that matters is to participate. In life, all that matters is to survive.
When playing, we improve our skills by competing against each-other. In life, we survive by helping each-other.
In this sense, politics is an exercise of cooperation more than a competition. A process through which the whole community finds its way forward rather than a beauty pageant where the next beauty queen is nominated to carry the torch through the dark. For a while…
The point being that all community/nations which had allowed personal interest – lust for wealth/power, to trump the collective need to survive have eventually collapsed. From Ancient Rome to Soviet Russia.
This being where Marx was hugely mistaken. While he understood history as a succession of class struggles – to be ended by the mother of all dictatorships, in reality is was a continuous evolution/honing of cooperation. From slavery to feudalism and to democratic capitalism people learned to do more and more things together. The status of the individual – of all the individual members of any given society, gradually improved while the communities have become more resilient and more productive.
And all attempts to revert to more ‘centralized’ alternatives – no matter how the ‘winners’ were supposed to be determined, have failed. All political and economical dictatorships – authoritarian-isms and monopolistic situations, have crumbled.
Not before incurring a lot of pain to those who allowed them to happen, helas. Contestants and spectators alike.”

Now go fight for your favorite political figure.
And allow hate to alter your perceptions.

Three things have grabbed my attention this week.

Carrie Lam, the Cambridge educated Hong Kong’s top civil servant, whose career spans more than 40 years, who happens to be a devout Catholic, had tried to fast track legislation allowing the Hong Kong authorities to extradite people to mainland China.

More than a million of the 7.4 million inhabitants of Hong Kong have taken to the streets, in protest.

Across the Pacific Ocean, in Venezuela, a pregnant mother accompanied by her two small children, had joined other 31 people who attempted to flee their impoverished country. They had climbed aboard Ana Maria, a fishing boat which was supposed to take them to Trinidad but never made it across the 20 km wide stretch of treacherous water.

Maroly Bastardo, the Venezuelan mother, was trying to survive. Since it is harder and harder to find food in Venezuela – for themselves and for their children, more and more people attempt to leave the country. Which, despite having an immense natural wealth, is being led to disaster by a group of ultimately incompetent people.

The one million people protesting in Hong Kong have adopted another strategy. They attempt not only to survive, physically, but also to preserve their way of life. Their cherished way of life.

These two are relatively easy to figure out. It’s easy to understand the need to survive. Equally easy to understand is the determination of those who want to continue a lifestyle they enjoy.

But what drives the Carrie Lam’s and the Nicholas Maduro’s of this world?
OK, I might accept the idea that, somehow, each of them might have ‘lost it’.
But what about those around them? How come so many people still consider they can, somehow, contradict the entire human history?
‘This time will be different!” ” ‘This Reich’ will rule for one thousand years!”

Yeah, right…

Yeah, right… then please show me the Mongolian version of how they had conquered most of Eur-Asia during the XIII-th century…

Anyway, the fact that this saying is so popular tells more about us than about who actually writes history.

First of all, we seem to be convinced that history is nothing more than the story of back to back ‘the winner takes it all’ kind of battles we had to win in order to survive to this day.

Secondly, we seem to be OK with this vision…

But what does it mean?
That (written) history reflects only what the victors have to say/want to disclose about what had happened?

Are we OK with this?

And still wondering why ‘history keeps repeating itself‘?

Wanna break the vicious circle?
Then how about ‘history is written by those who care enough among those who are able to write among those who have survived’?

This version of history is still incomplete. All history will always be incomplete, no matter how many people will have written it. How many sides of the events will have been covered.
But this version will be more inclusive. Hence more relevant.
Presenting survival, instead of winning, as being the essential part of any battle will diminish the intensity of the conflict. Hence allow us to learn more from it.

For instance, it will help us understand that war is the price paid, by both sides, for failing to figure out that cooperation works better than confrontation.

Just compare how the victors of WWI treated the vanquished with how the (same) victors of WWII treated (mainly) the same vanquished. And the aftermaths of WWI and WWII.

As I promised you some time ago, let’s have a look at ‘property’.

As you recall, I was arguing that we, humans, are only ‘qualitatively’ different from the rest of the animals. In the sense that we do everything that they do – and nothing really new or different, only that we do it ‘better’. And more ‘evenly’.

In my previous post, I was dealing with ‘trade’. So I’ll use ‘trade’ to explain what I mean by ‘more evenly’.

All living things are made of three things.

An inside, a membrane and a set of instructions which deal with two things.
How the whole thing should be structured in order to able to live and how the inside should interact with the outside – through the membrane, in order for the organism to remain alive and replicate itself.

My previous post dealt with individual organism trading food (a.k.a. matter) and information with their outside. It also dealt with manners in which trade can be performed.
Directly – as in barter, or indirectly – using symbols.
The most simple barter is breathing. Exchanging gases with the environment. Or foraging – individual organisms ingest food and water and excrete poop and urine.
‘Trading’ information is a little more complicated. An individual organism can be endowed with genetic information by it’s parents, presented with information by some of its peers – bacteria or playmates, taught by its voluntary or involuntary teachers or it can glean information by itself through mindful observation. Also, trading information is more complicated than trading food because information can be either ‘hardware’ or ‘software’. DNA inherited from the parents (received from peers/’invaders’) being ‘hardware’ while information gleaned through observation or during training being ‘software’.

Everything described in the previous paragraph is common for all living organisms, including humans.

My point being that we’ve been trading, from the ‘beginning’, far more items than any of¬† the other living things – plants and/or animals.
OK, an individual whale will eat far more than an individual human being. But whales eat, basically, one or two things. While we, humans, will throw down our throats almost anything that we fancy. Including some stuff which will actually hurt us.

But the real interesting thing is the manner in which we ‘trade’ information. We not only observe keenly what happens outside our consciousness (not just outside our-bodies, simply outside the shell that harbors our ‘mind’) but also translate that information into symbols and then communicate that symbolic information with our fellow human beings.

And here’s the catch.

I mentioned earlier that every individual organism consists of an inside, a membrane which keeps it together and a package of information.
For survival purposes, each organism must consider all its three components as being its own and to defend them ‘to the bitter end’. Or else…
Which is congruent to what happens in the real world… Membranes are relatively hard to penetrate, there are some defense mechanisms which at least attempt to take of any intruders – the immune system, for example….
More over, the more ‘sophisticated’ organisms also defend ‘their’ territories and the local resources they have identified and claimed as being theirs. If you don’t believe me, just try to take a bone from any normal dog which isn’t yours.

You see, not even ‘property’ is exclusively¬† specific to humans…. We have created the concept, we actually define ourselves using our possessions… yet we share this trait with all other living organisms… even if they don’t know anything about it…

Remember what I just said about us being able to trade ‘symbolic’ information? To ‘formulate’ the information before trading/sharing it?
Same thing happens with ‘property’.

For a dog, a bone is its property as long as it happens to be in his snout. And most dogs have no problem in attempting to ‘steal’ a bone from another dog – as long as the other is not way bigger, a pup or some-other special cases.

Meanwhile, most humans would painstakingly respect other people’s property.
Simply because, for us, property has also meaning. Besides ‘survival value’

NB. In English, ‘property’ is not exclusively about possession. Its root, ‘proper’, means from ‘clean’ to ‘as it should be’.

Human nature has evolved considerably since we’ve climbed down the proverbial tree/been made in His own image.
Some of our ancestors used to eat their fellow human beings/the first brother had killed his sibling for profit while a sizeable proportion of the present humankind governs itself in a democratic manner.
No individual has ever been able to change, by themself, the human nature. Time and time again, this has been attempted in vain. Plato, Napoleon, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin…
Yet each of us can change their own persona. This is what Buddha and Jesus have been successfully teaching us.
This is how we’ve figured out that eating our brother might satiate our hunger for the time being but will never solve the problem. Feeding ourselves for the long run demands cooperation. It cannot be achieved through mindless/cut-throat competition.
As long as more and more of us understand this, we’ll have a fighting chance to survive. As a species.
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