The Human Contradiction reviews the basic driving forces for the creation of life and asks the question "how far are we still governed by Nature's forces"?
It makes the argument that our current societies are still firmly directed by natural forces. It asks what we must do to continue a future existence within our changing world, a world of technology and finite resources - will nature help or prevent such progress, and what are the likley outcomes?
Nature is our best friend and worst enemy. This review attempts to show how the force of Nature has developed the human race and is now preventing us from defining our own world.
There is nothing new here. The arguments are simple and straightforward. This reasoning does however make a difference to the way we may move forward to create a future for the human race, one that, as we shall see, is far from the Natural path that we are presently hurtling towards. Such failure will likely bring Armageddon for nearly all of us.
Nature is not just a potent force, it is the defining force for all life. We know this, yet while we marvel at Natures invention we continually miss the uncompromising mission that Nature has evolved.
Nature took four billion years to create the human race. Simple self-replicating chemicals define ‘Nature’ – which we may in turn define simply as ‘survival’. Initially, simple chemicals combined to create more complex chemicals. These in turn competed to create improved self-replicating chemical systems leading to complex chemical processes for sustained survival. We do not yet have a clear understanding of how and where this process happened, but we can see the results.
It seems clear that life as we find it across our planet came from just one example of these chemical machines. We know this due to the redundancy we find in the RNA/DNA, the backbone of this chemical machine. DNA is the same throughout all life forms, from bacteria, fungi, plant and animals. We know DNA holds the code for all life and in itself is very simple, just four different small molecules that produce just twenty core amino acids. DNA could produce more but it never does. If there had been other prevailing starting points, it is likely this redundancy would be different in different life forms and yet it is not. We still do not know if Nature initially produced many successful self-replicating chemical machines to be whittled down to the one now remaining, or if our specific RNA/DNA machine was a one-off. This makes no difference to the arguments of this debate, once Nature had found an effective and durable way forward the future was already defined. (There is an interesting new analysis of where 'DNA came from' see: Luca from the Stars?
Natures effectiveness is derived simply from probability. We do not need to study probability theory to understand that within any closed environment self-replicating machines of any sort will necessarily compete to survive against both their environment and other machines. There is no alternative to this conclusion - if some of these machines elect not to compete they would become less and less effective (against the rest) and reduce in number until eventually they would die out.
We see the world through eyes that have a very short time-horizon. It is difficult for us to comprehend millions of years, let alone billions of years. And yet, the effectiveness of Nature is fundamentally based on probability over these timescales. The self-replicating machines coupled with these extended timescale have produced the miracle of life as we know it.
It is of great importance to appreciate these underlying processes. From this understanding we must conclude a quite different approach to our own continuing existence. And from this understanding an appreciation of our own survival instincts. These survival instincts are not random, nor are they unrefined. It has taken Nature four billion years to create its most sophisticated self-replicating survival machines - 'Man & Woman'
We marvel at the complexity of life. And yet, it is simply time working with the probability of survival that produces everything we see. This is Natures true force. Over time, Nature's way is relentless. If there is a better way Nature will find it.
This has lead to every potential niche being filled by at least one self-replicating chemical life form. Over time, Nature found more complex ways to improve survival rates. These included more and more complex strategies for survival, they are all derived from the same basic principles of applying probability over (a long) time. And there is nothing magical about them, complex behaviour occurs naturally within any environment, we can demonstrate this very simply today by just using a small computer and applying mathematical transformations to create self-replicating 'virtual creatures'.
This naturally arising competitive complexity leads to ever increasing complexity for survival strategies. Strategies such as sexual reproduction and symbiotic behaviour are early examples of such sophistication.
Four billions years on, and we have many higher species capable of some form of ‘thinking’, helping them make the best use of resources and improving their competitive behaviour. Many animals learn during their short existence, use tools and communicate within their groups to help their own and the groups survival. We now understand that all of our behaviour is derived directly from these survival strategies. This applies to individuals and groups, the selfish or competitive gene at work.
Humans prosper using these same survival strategies, enhanced further by our refined communication and planning abilities. Humans are (currently) the pinnacle of Nature’s relentless push towards competitive survival. Humans believe we are special because of these abilities. However, it is clear from any review of how we have survived against other species and the changing environment that we are designed for survival just like the rest of life and use ever more complex behavioural processes to enhance our survival.
Nature makes mistakes. These are unimportant because over the extended timescales we are considering, it maters not a jot to Nature, in fact nature harnesses mistakes to create new ways of moving forward. Most human conditioning took place millions of years before we became truly Human. Our 'walk out of Africa' as a small tribe of no more, (we think), than a few thousand, already had the complex survival processes and strategies that we use today. These include complex social behaviour, political leadership, sexual and risk strategies for reproduction, family structures, tribal behaviour and belief systems.
Uniquely, man's refined complexity allows us to contemplate our own situation, this is the key fundamental difference from other thinking animals. Our pervasive belief in what makes us different clouds the true nature of our existence. We have been designed extremely well for survival with many, many complex survival processes ensuring our ongoing success against other species and indeed other human tribes. These are inbuilt, some can and are damped-down in our modern societal living, but they are still there providing a powerful ongoing commitment for Nature's relentless survival path. We ignore them at our peril.
Consider Man’s ascent – it tells a story of creative thinking and tool making. From the hand-axe through agriculture, steam power, to the iphone, soon to autonomous machines, these tools make man hugely more efficient and allow us to out compete all other species.
We believe these inventions are driven by our cleverness and are thought through. But in fact they are just the result of Natures relentless thrusting. Once we had been 'given' the ability to 'think and communicate' humans were bound to create a path where we would out-compete all other animals. It is Nature’s path that we follow. This is the important distinction at the very heart of understanding this 'human contradiction'.
Any review of history shows that our ascent has been directed along Nature’s chosen path, our fine thinking, creative and planning minds have simply been hijacked by Nature’s true intention – in creating the ultimate competitive animal.
History shows this clearly. A small group arrives ‘out of Africa’ and spreads across the globe seeking survival. Foraging and nomadic people gather into competitive groups. Ice ages force an improvement of creative tools and techniques against the cold. Agricultural development allows large groups to form developing group strategies to improve competitiveness and further efficiencies. Human creativity and communication create sequential technological developments revolutionising humans ability to compete. These cover all aspects of our society and have lead to a massive explosions in population in a very short time.
Agriculture, trawling, intensive farming, mass manufacturing
Power – water, steam, nuclear
Travel – wheel, horse, ship, train, road networks, planes
Electrical, electronics, communications, computers
Comms – post, printing, telegraph, phone, radio, tv, mobile, internet
Organisational – tribal, kingdoms, slavery, war, dictatorships, money, capitalism, parliamentary, global organisations
Social – nomadic, slaves, serfdom, employee
Social support – witch doctor, extended family, public health & welfare
We can re-organise the above list any which way, but fundamentally it will always tell the story of human progress. Was any of this progress thought through? Or do we just see Nature’s relentless competitive urge here?
Are we not just Nature’s pawns? The above lists show some of our wonderful creative side. But who would devise slavery, war, mass killing and uncompromising dictatorships as elements of a reasoned progress, - a thought-through plan for progress? No, they belonged to Natures unthinking progress, designed as the ultimate competitive strategy using our Natural abilities. This progress has not been within our control, we have been powerless to change its course whatever the philosophers may have thought. Any man or woman who has ever stood against this fundamental, aggressive and unplanned progress has been derided or worse. Nature has held and played all the cards.
To illustrate how man’s attempts at delivering us from Nature's instinctive path have failed, lets consider the failure of Marx’s communism.
Many thinking people applauded the philosophical goals behind Marxism. To have the means of production held by the few is Nature’s likely outcome. The fittest win and the winner takes all. Marx’s philosophical approach occurred at a time when the underclasses were becoming aware of their power to change the status-quo and also at a time when communication technology and education allowed mass interaction to a common goal. Soon a major political and sociological change had swept across many parts of the world.
Very soon Natural human survival strategies made light of this new system for organising human endeavour and simply reduced the 'fine egalitarian values' of these events to unseemly dictatorships. The status quo re-established itself and the mass of the people became irrelevant again, (except for their usefulness as cogs within the wealth creation process for the few). A few of theses dictatorships (such as Cuba), endured as benign dictatorships. Interestingly, even these have been hampered by Nature. These communities lacking Nature's true, unencumbered competitive thrusting, fell behind the race in industrial efficiencies and have lost out against competitive world economies.
It does seem that Nature’s processes have ensured our slavery to competitive behaviour. It is time we recognised this. Not to do so will continually assign the human race to Nature’s will. Are we to become our own masters? Or are we to follow Nature’s path in perpetuity?
We are moving towards a final fight. Time is running out. We can all see very clearly that the world and its resources will simply not work much longer, (for most of us), within the current overly competitive political and economic framework now prevalent within most of the worlds economies. It will lead to massive disruption, death, famine, all out war or whatever, we must take on Nature or Nature will lead us to our own demise.
Some people may think that this demise may not be all bad. Nature would ensure that the world would continue along with many species maybe for a very long time. A possible outcome would be a small group of super-humans, perhaps artificially enhanced, posing little threat to world resources. This would of course be a 'win win' for Nature. It would take humans to the next level while maintaining the world as a haven for more life's experiments.
Taking on Nature - this is a tremendous idea. Nature gave us life and structure. Nature gave us tools and creative abilities. Did Nature produced far more than it could have expected? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any event we have been given the abilities to tackle Nature’s unthinking, relentless path should we decide to take Nature on. This is the greatest fight in the history of the world, of life itself. If we win, we would be re-defining Nature’s path, throwing out four billions years of probability theory to create a new environment for survival, one based on ‘critical thinking’ and not on Nature's probability function.
Marx penned his philosophy a while before it was put into practice. Similarly, today’s ideas must lead the progression of real organisational change for the people’s of the world. Technology continues to move ahead – due to man’s inherent ascent – and perhaps as with Communism, technology will create opportunities to make fundamental change possible.
How strange we are. Humans consider themselves to be the finest thinkers, perhaps the only sentient beings in the whole universe, with philosophers, mathematicians, scientists and clever people developing fine understanding of our world and the wider universe and yet, we have no clue to how we may think our way out of this looming dilemma.
Perhaps, just perhaps, as the new social communication technologies touch huge swathes of the global population coupled to improving education standards along with better understanding of these global threats – it is just possible that humans on a global scale may demand a different path.
The problem here is that to implement a critical thinking path, there needs to be global re-organisation. It is not clear how any such re-organisation could by-pass the Nature’s competitive strategies and deliver sustainable change. Most likely, even if there was such a global change, it would be subsumed by a few powerful people and organisations for their own natural gain - as always, just following Nature’s survival path.
The discussion today should be about how the human race can create and sustain organisational change that harnesses but also masters Nature’s model rather than let Nature have the last word.
As we move further along the path of automated wealth creation processes, opportunities are likely to present. The western world has replaced raw labour power over the last few decades to a fraction of what it has always been since the beginning of man’s time. The rest of this world is quickly catching up. Soon, (if not already), the human race will have enough technological advantage not only to feed the world but provide for Western levels of welfare throughout the world. Currently, Nature's complex human competitive path preclude these from being implemented.
At what point may human race realise that the unfairness due to Nature's processes can and should be overcome. What technical changes may spark such a world-wide debate. How will this debate manifest itself?
There are some issues we may consider. Within another number of decades, unless technology progress falters, it is very likely that we shall have mainly autonomous industrial and food production processes. At the same time many administration jobs will cease to exist. We already have the technology to create almost infinite energy production, (although currently very poorly implemented), and almost certainly within this next number of decades this ability to produce plentiful energy should finally see results across the world for the world.
Current technology has already created world-wide instant communication (for the ‘middle classes’ at least). This should spread to many more of the world’s seven to eight billion within the next few decades.
So it would seem there should be scope for radical change in terms of technological progress. Wealth creation shall not require mass input from people and the communication for world action should also be in place. This is very likely within say five to ten decades, within one life-time for our young people within western civilisations.
There are two main issues that need resolving. Firstly, Nature’s path places restraints upon open communication (due to political intervention). Secondly, unless there is a clear philosophy for a new type human organisation along with a clear path for it’s implementation it cannot happen.
Interestingly, while there is currently much discussion of ‘political interference’ in many world communities, there is almost no discussion of potential new organisation structures. Competitive capitalistic structures have been so effective in creating forward momentum, they are now accepted as the only way forward. This of course plays directly to Nature’s hand. It is difficult to think of a better example of Nature’s thrusting resolute path than that of capitalism. The winners take all and the majority become pawns in the game of life.
Another key issue here must be the world-wide organisation structures verses sovereign structures. The pace of technological change is clearly outpacing both world and sovereign political change processes. There are still many sovereign states that don’t even have rudimentary ‘democratic’ processes. Even older western sovereign states do not have political structures that allow for really effective organisational progress.
The ‘standard UK’ model that has been adopted in many countries is seriously flawed. Electing a five year tenure parliament that are (Naturally) split along party lines inhibits real long term organisational progress. So while during the last hundred years we have seen amazing technological progress, when we consider political change, governance has had little effect on western societies. For instance within the UK, the only major change, (since the second world war), that has been clearly due to political governance was the introduction of the NHS. Most other societal changes have been lead by Nature’s relentless drive to compete.
Attempting to change political structures tackles Nature head on. Politicians are Natures ultimate competitors. We cannot expect the political system to tackle changes that reduce the politician’s personal or party interests. It is likely that political organisational change shall only come from a major breakdown in one or more societal systems.
Therefore the need to develop new organisational models is paramount. If we had a good understanding of potential systems that offer advanced political and organisational governance – one that allows for fundamentally good democratic processes aligned to progressive and effective long-term planning systems – then at least, if or when push comes to shove, we would be able to try to change for the better. Currently, if this breakdown does occur, it will be in a vacuum of ideas and it is likely that the society would regress, (again along Natural lines), allowing the strongest to rule over the rest. While this is fine for the few rulers (and Nature), it will put thinking man’s ultimate goal of taming Nature’s overriding competitive thrust back many decades or perhaps even centuries.
Humans now face new major global challenges caused by our own success. Nature is quite happy about this as it knows that we are likely to adapt and survive in some form. Most successful species have gone through such challenges, they slim down and start off again. In fact, Nature may prefer us to go through a major change as this will bestow additional survival strategies on the remaining humans that manage to survive. These additions could be technical enhancements such as gene manipulation or embedded systems.
Our social minds consider such a cull to be abhorrent. This path has been clear for many years. So far, we have done almost nothing to prevent the looming catastrophe. We continue as unthinking and as competitively as ever, just following Nature’s well worn plan and excusing it as ‘human nature’.
So, it seems we are destined to follow Nature’s path to the bitter end. What are the likely outcomes of this?
War, famine, water shortages, global warming catastrophes, leading to the breakdown of all major communities, loss of central services and production.
Mega death with a twist
As above – with a select few who see this coming create a new world (super-human) order, forcing the surviving local population into serving them.
Global population reduction
Leading to much reduced cities and a population size that suits the available food and other resources. Many parts of the world uninhabitable due to climate changes. The majority of the human race muddles through, just. Years of difficulty while attempts are made to gain some sort of global order. Meanwhile, most people suffer from shortages, breakdown of central services with marshal law often being the necessary to hold on to any sort of societal structure.
Forced realignment of populations
Leading countries force a new pattern (through war) on the larger populations, releasing the available resources from these countries to the few remaining countries that rule by force.
Interestingly the second and the last are probably the most Natural path, the path Nature’s competitive strategies take us. They would allow the human race to continue to develop technically without much risk to their overall survival. After all this is what we have been doing for the last five thousand years or so very effectively. This would eventually lead to Humans escaping the world and perhaps being successful at taking life as we know it to other planetary systems.
The other outcomes would in time allow for improving technical progress but more slowly and the result of these is likely to be similar in the longer run with a sort of super race commanding over the rest. Again, Nature’s competitive survival strategies are likely to create significant changes to the way humans interact and protect themselves in an indeterminate world. This is likely to lead to uncompromising bands of people using technology to subdue potential threats and take command of the best land and resources.