Friday, September 26, 2014

What's The Dividing Line Between Cultural Evolution & Terminal Cancer?

   (Commentary posted by Roger Erickson.)

"The power of willful ignorance can never be overstated, because people are prepared to look the other way and believe anything." 
John Leonard (electrician's union)
Yes, and what do we do about it?* Well, doesn't that quickly force us to ask what culture is? You don't have to be able to state an answer to have culture, but it sure might help us to do so if we want to extend present Human Culture.

So much has been discovered, documented - and ignored - about diverse forms of culture that we are in dire need of summarizing, so we can get to the self-survival question of what to do next. How do we extend what we have?

Let's try one, terse summary of what we do have, and what we know about the process of building and extending culture.


1) Data is meaningless w/o context.

2) Construction of context = Interpretation of data = part of culture = outcomes from habits.

3) It takes LAYERS OF SUB-CULTURE to tune any & all cultural components w asynchronous & increasingly shorter time constants (i.e., cultural agility = adaptive rate).

4) Which is why we need progressively MORE self-governance infrastructure, just to maintain - let alone increase - net agility of a system growing in size &/or capability.
(Resiliency is NOT efficiency. Tuning to do ONE task involves dumbing down capabilities. Retaining ability of a growing system to respond to ANY contingency requires continuously added inter-dependencies among existing and emerging infrastructure components.)
5) Ergo.
Cost-of-coordination [C-O-C] is always the highest cost, by far. (Shewhart)
Return-on-total-coordination [R-O-TC] is the ONLY return worth chasing.
(Logic: R-O-TC = only return > C-O-C)
So what is the dividing line between evolution & terminal cancer?
Tuning return-on-coordination out of uncoordinated growth?

We're at another fork in that path. Since most paths are terminal, let's focus on taking the road less traveled.

It might also help to remind students and all citizens that culture didn't start with humans, or even with amoebas, or even with inorganic chemistry ...

... so that it doesn't come as a shock if they finally learn that culture will definitely not end with anything we can currently imagine.

Really, we're left with only a rather simple question.

How do we both successfully launch, and then stay out of the way of our own grandchildren, and the 7th generation yet unborn?

How that question is interpreted is entirely dependent upon the transition rate between the context which the group mind of our current electorate holds today, and the context perceived by our survivors a few generations out.

If we wisely choose which directions of change to accelerate, there will be more of those survivors, racing on sooner to new futures.

If we choose poorly, more of our descendants will suffer terminal consequences, and their journey to the future will be slowed.

Which outcome do we desire?
(very apt cartoon here, by Beatrice the Biologist; part of how brains work)

An inexperienced, out of practice cultural group-brain tends to work the same way.


Notice I didn't mention coincidental trivialities like economics, accounting, or regulation. Those are all standardized parts of cultural plumbing, to build upon, not constrain with.


Tom Hickey said...

Good one, Roger. You have an article in the making here, or maybe a book waiting to be written.

Anonymous said...

So what is the dividing line between evolution & terminal cancer?

Cancer cells want to be immortal;and in doing so kill their host and themselves ....

How do we both successfully launch, and then stay out of the way of our own grandchildren, and the 7th generation yet unborn?

Easy(!) - there is a (potential) energy in the human heart called kindness. When human beings evolve to the point where the heart leads and the mind works in partnership, and the 'I' is seen as just a wave in the mindstuff (not worth fulfilling and actually impossible to fulfill) - then we might have a sane world? When the heart is filled, trying to fulfill the 'I' is actually laughable .... :-) Especially when like the cancer cell ....

We are asleep; disconnected from our true nature and dreaming .... our rush to 'progress' is our desire for immortality, even when we know one day all will be dust. What is immortal is already within us.

One solution is to wake up?

Roger Erickson said...


articles & books are already obsolete

articles are too slow

books are even slower

This is exactly why we've invented blogs, tweets, google+ and OpenSource

We're in a race for population penetration of relevant feedback. Marketing as recruitment still matters, but the turnover of effective tools is complete.