by Mike Meyer
What if we are evolving into two closely related but different species? One of the largest concerns that has increased both individual and group anxiety over the last three years is the existence of a minority that seems to live on a different planet. We can’t understand them and they, obviously, can’t understand us. What does this really mean?
A week ago I would have laughed and said no, it can’t happen. But the thought appeared and it suggests answers to questions that we have not been able to answer. Evolutionary change is vast and long term, unless it isn’t. A major theme in the last twenty years of evolutionary studies is punctuated equilibrium.
Biologically this is a means to explain the long periods of very slow evolutionary change in populations followed by very short periods of intense change. This is very clear in the archeological record. This is also the case in human social structures that follow evolutionary patterns.
We are now accelerating into a range of paradigmatic changes that are unprecedented in extent but also in speed. Disruption is a daily occurrence. The struggle to understand the new is pushing us continuously into novel ways of seeing the world and forcing us to face new problems. What has been viewed as irreconcilable political differences doesn’t seem much like past political differences. Maybe they are more than that.
If we try to back up and approach what is happening to our species on this planet now with a broader set of possible answers, what happens? Does it make any sense at all?
What is changing?
Actually change, itself, is changing. The concept of paradigmatic change has been a growing area of study over the last fifty years. Originally labeled by Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962 it began helping people understand just how big paradigmatic change was and can be. While this was focused specifically on scientific revolutions with the European Scientific Revolution as the largest example it identified something far larger than that.
In short, we have come to understand that human social constructs and knowledge follows the common patterns of evolutionary change. Specific eras in the history of our species produce a roughly shared model of the world in which they lived. The tools that we use to understand that world and to solve problems in everyday life have their own life expectancy based on their ability to solve the problems that we face.
As the nature of our problems change, increasing in complexity and scale, the old solutions are less and less effective. These solutions, or more accurately, the rules of the current way of seeing the universe in which we live need to change to more closely relate to what actually exists based on changes that we have evolved.
This is the basic reality that is traditionally identified as the dilemma faced in the sophomore year of university education. How do I know that what you call ‘blue’ is the same as what I call ‘blue’. If all we know is what we sense what is it that we are sensing? This discussion usually concludes that we just need to agree on what see and what we name it and we act on the basis of that. Philosophy classes add detail and options to this but, for most of us most of the time, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.
But now it does. Paradigmatic shifts are changes in the shared way of seeing and understanding what we call ‘the world’. But what does the rate of change mean for this?
Homo sapiens, in our present evolutionary form, are linear thinkers. We count things and add them up then subtract things from that giving us a new total and that is our normal way of thinking about our world. That has worked very well but now is failing us on, nearly, a daily basis.
The problem is Exponential Change. We have been talking more and more about this in popular media over the last hundred or so years and even more in the last twenty years. This is the difference between what is often called arithmetic change and geometric change. Our brains do not work instinctively with Exponential Change (geometric change).
The traditional tale illustrating this is attributed to several cultures over the last thousand years or so and you may well know it. If you take a chess board starting with one grain of rice in one square and then double the count for each remaining square you will be dealing with 18 quintillion grains of rice on the board, or a whole universe of rice, at the 64th square.
The really tricky part of Exponential Change is that is starts very slowly but builds very quickly. The first square is one grain, then two grains, then four grains, then eight grains, then sixteen grains then thirty-two grains. At this point Homo sapiens are still OK but that is because we can’t ‘see’ where this is going and 18 quintillion is only a few square after that.
We now live in an exponential world. The problems that we are now facing and the solutions that they will require are more likely to be exponential and we are struggling to grasp that. So the rate of change is now exponential and it has been for a long time but it started slowly so we didn’t notice. It is doubling now at a size that is already overwhelming but it never stops. Well, as long as we can survive.
Changing the way we think
Obviously we need to start thinking in an exponential manner. But our world is still arithmetic, but is that so for everyone? No. We are changing the way we see the universe we live in but that change has been concentrated in the post modern and educated societies. The exponential rate of that change now means that we have parts of our planetary population scattered across completely different world and even universes.
If you think the universe is just the way it is and doesn’t change you are living in a Newton’s universe. You simply haven’t hit a problem or situation that caused you to trip and fall into the new universe. On a cultural level this change may be what is meant by being ‘Woke’. For a long time it was popularly described as ‘getting it’. With any luck at all this small article my help you to make that change.
Very briefly and simply stated our species made the first, fateful change in universes around 15,000 years ago. This was the change to agriculture and the rise of cities that people lived in. But that became the new universe (the new normal) and lasted several thousand years.
The next major change is universes was something called the Axial Age developed by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers. This was 8th to 3rd century BCE and saw the rise of all classical religions and the rise of classical civilizations.
Different parts of the planet shifted at different times after that with regional models tied to classical systems until the move in Europe to the heliocentric view. That was a critical change that not only moved the sun to a new place but then opened up our world to an infinite universe. The Scientific Revolution based on Newton’s classical physics followed.
The modern, scientific world is where most people have been but with rapidly growing numbers realizing that Exponential Growth and quantum mechanics have subsumed the Newtonian universe and Eisenstein’s Relativity change producing the need for a very different universe.
So what does that mean for how we see the universe and for what is happening to us? Do we need to evolve?
The new evolution
My suggestion that Homo sapiens may be becoming two species simply reflects the size of the paradigm shift that we are experiencing and the extent of the change in our way of thinking that this will require. Exponential change is forcing us to evolve.
In our evolutionary past Homo sapiens came to dominate and our last related species, Homo neanderthalensis, died off and/or merged with our species about 40,000 years ago. This was an archaic form of Homo and is probably closer to a subspecies than a separate species but that is a detail here. There is no reason that we may not split off a new subspecies based on specific characteristics in perception and thought.
At a novel level, evolutionary change is the result of an isolated or semi-isolated population reacting to changes in an environment. While this is the classic situation originally identified by Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands and in other places since then. These are physical changes. But what about mental changes in sentient beings? The world we live in is, we know now, a mental contruct. The people who are reacting irrationally to change now seem to be unable to make the change to the new universe that house our predominantly urban populations.
And, no, this doesn’t have anything to do with race as that covers physical differences within gene pools that are all within the range of one species, Homo sapiens. I’m suggesting that we may be seeing a mental adaption that could create a significant difference in the way one group sees the world as opposed to the remainder of the population that is tied to the older world view.
Would that help us to understand and deal with drastically different ways of thinking and differences in use of language? Our current problems are extreme and have no obvious solutions except, possibly, isolation. I and others have suggested this on a political level with loosening the US federal union to allow greater difference between states or groups of states. But this is difficult to do without conflict and our old world view is based on no real change within the human population with no recognition of alternative realities..
An important point, I think, is that these changes are going to become more extreme very quickly as paradigmatic change is realized and accepted by a large, and it appears already, a majority of the population. This is already clearly based on a different and much more diverse view of human identity and gender along with a much broader openness to change.
How do we protect the rights of the minority remaining in a different universe that does not handle diversity, change, or post modern and post industrial human culture well or may, increasingly, be unable to see or understand new changes? The likely situation is that language will evolve to increase the gap in understanding and commonality not reduce it.
In the past major paradigmatic change has taken hundreds of years. Historically we have dealt with this as a change that initially affected an intellectual elite. From Copernicus to Newton the population that lived in a heliocentric solar system were a distinct minority. But, for the most part, this didn’t really matter. The heliocentrists were a distinct and somewhat isolated minority until the 19th century.
Exponential change has driven massive reality change into less than a generation. In a technically aware and networked population there is less and less separation and so conflicting views of reality are constantly in conflict. And the problems that we face have an immediate timeline that, I suggest, cannot be solved without implementation of a new world view for immediate implementation. A significant part of the population maintaining the old world view as the ‘only’ reality will not allow this. We are seeing that now with increasingly dire implications for our planet and all life forms. Something needs to change if a common world view cannot be quickly agreed on.
Perhaps this is a way to identify the other world view as characteristic of another type of people. They don’t live in the world that is exponentially growing around us. Those of us that do live in the new world are barely able to keep up and understand what is happening.
Differences in worlds
We already, using America as an example, have an older, racially distinct, and predominantly rural or mentally provincial population that defines normal as a combination of the Newtonian world combined with even earlier methodologically based world views. These people may have difficulty understanding and internalizing the universe defined by relativity that makes time a function of relative position in the universe we inhabit and that is the dominant world of the 20th century.
The new Quantum World that eliminates both time and space as anything but a matrix of potentialities is completely destructive to the world that they think exists. This, I suggest, is what makes it emotionally traumatic to move away from tribal thinking and racist patterns. They have been battling the Newtonian Scientific World that was subsumed to the Einsteinian World that is now simply a component of the Quantum World.
They are caught, to an extent, in the old classical world of mythology and formal causation based on supernatural absolutes. While the new Quantum World is moving rapidly away from the extremely limited materialist world of classical physics with ‘dead’ material and simple action and reaction, the emerging teleology is much more complex and open. This will allow the production of virtual realities based on standardized and new archetypes for all sentient beings.
Obviously this is so far down the road for the slowest to change that it is not even understandable as science fiction. Yet we need to make changes to our societies to be able to survive the rest of this century. The people we are discussing don’t even see the problem.
Perhaps by realizing we are dealing with the equivalent of a different species we can remove some of the stress and deal with this in a way that will allow them to evolve as we all must in this century.
The level of stress in human societies today is the greatest it has ever been. Psychologists are seeing rapidly declining mental health due to this stress. We need to move beyond this and no traditional way seems to work.