Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: The Man Machine - Organisms to Organisation    
 The Man Machine - Organisms to Organisation
2007-06-27, by John Ringland

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This is an excerpt from the e-book The Gaian-Ego Hypothesis that relates to the evolution of systems from organisms to organisations via the agency of human civilisation. Also see this Psychological Perspective on Civilisation and Gaia or the Man Machine?

Organisational Governance

First some basic terms and concepts before we get into the systemic history of human civilisation. All organisations have both an informal and a formal structure. These are concepts from the systems theory of organisational structures, which I will briefly define. They are two parallel systems of governance within any organisation. The informal structure within a society is the original organic level of governance, its main communication mechanism is the 'grapevine' and its code of conduct is traditions, norms, taboos and so on; it can be anarchic such as a group of friends or it can be highly structured such as a tribe that has well defined roles and power relations. The formal structure of a society is a later outgrowth that institutionalises the basic nature of the informal system of governance and extends it over a broader reach. Its main modern communication mechanism is mass media and its main code of conduct is legislation.

In any organisational structure these levels of governance exist to varying degrees. It is most commonly analysed within corporate cultures so I'll first discuss it in this context. Too often the system is envisaged from the perspective of the formal structure so the culture becomes authoritarian; the staff are objectified as the corporation leverages it control and pushes for productivity but due to the ignorance of the nature of the organisational system the formal structure abuses the informal structure leading to stress, low morale, lower productivity, absenteeism and staff turnover. These are then naively blamed on the staff and tighter controls are implemented thus worsening the situation [FR].

Managing the informal structure is a matter of managing the overall culture, but corporate culture is usually defined from the perspective of the formal structure with little or no regard for the informal structure. That is why there are so often negative side-effects arising from attempts at cultural change. The culture is "that ethereal something that hangs in the air and influences how work gets done, critically affects project success or failure, says who fits in and who doesn't, and determines the overall mood of the company... cultural issues may be responsible for low morale, absenteeism or high staff turnover, with all of the adverse effects those can have on productivity." [FR]

The key to harmonious and efficient organisational structures is communication and respect between the two levels of governance, the informal and formal. The key to this is communication: "Surveys show that workplace miscommunication has high costs, including lowered productivity, increased turnover, and higher stress." [FR] Another key factor is for the formal structure to not dominate and oppress the informal structure. The formal structure may attempt to control and monitor and dictate every aspect of the staff's work practices in a misguided attempt to increase productivity but this only stifles the natural functioning of the informal structure. "One common theme that runs through job stressors for employees is a lack of control over their environment and tasks." [FR]

These same organisational power struggles and conflicts are played out in societies on a much larger scale. We see growing authoritarianism and more domineering formal structures and a fragmenting and increasingly hostile informal structure. There is growing surveillance, invasive legislation, enforcement and a discourse based more and more on formal structure issues and perspectives where individuals are disempowered, disenfranchised, distrusted, manipulated and controlled. This leads to growing dysfunction that can be seen in rising depression, violence, stress, suicide, homicide, vandalism and so on from the informal structure and a growing police state with tougher laws, enforcement and penalties and so on from the formal structure. It is an organisational conflict, if people keep responding to the same misconceptions and pushing the same agendas it eventually evolves into total chaos, the breakdown of society and revolution, whereon the formal structure is destroyed and the cycle begins again.

A Brief History

Through our collective integration or meta system transition [FR], we are in the process of another Cambrian Explosion that we call civilisation. Understanding this is vital for understanding the true organic nature of ourselves and civilisation. In the following essay I define what I call the man machine, it is the mechanistic construct of traditions, energised thought forms, hierarchies of 'authority' and so on that domesticates humanity, harnesses its power and channels it under centralised control in order to produce a mass labour system that can be used to do work in the world on a scale far greater than any single human.

It is partly a natural evolution but it has been harnessed and exploited as an intricate technology of social engineering. This technology has been growing since the dawn of civilisation in various forms but in its most advanced form it has been deployed throughout our civilisation over the last century (see Psychological Manipulation). The first historical signs of the operation of the man machine occur in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian civilisations where it was most likely first invented. It is based upon advanced communication technologies such as writing and mathematics which allowed for the institutionalisation of power relations. It creates what is called a "formal structure" atop of the "informal structure".

Initially humans lived in family or tribal groups, which were loosely structured based upon physical power relations and physical necessities such as procreation, biological succession, food acquisition, shelter, and defence. These were purely informal structures (organic collectives integrated via the "grape-vine" and guided by traditions) without any formal structure (institutional control via propaganda and legislation). Without a complex externalised culture, the people confronted their world from a more subjective perspective and where more in tune with their world, with themselves and with each other.

However some thousands of years ago, humans developed intricate and abstract verbal communication systems which led to the development of a formal structure defined by externalised cultural traditions, thus the tribe evolved and became more institutionalised. These cultural innovations further developed into written and mathematical idioms. These enhanced the scope for organisation, collaboration, specialisation, and so on; analogous to the eukaryotes and their enhanced communications (see The First Cambrian Explosion). Thus humans began to organise into complex structures, initially loosely defined but the roles and relations became successively entrenched and institutionalised.

People became more and more dependent on these organisations and came to identify with their organisational roles and to conceive of themselves from within the discourse of the organisation, thus they were assimilated or harnessed into the organisations. The people became more enmeshed in external cultural forms expressed in terms of an objective external world and they lost touch with their inner subjective reality.

Around the time of the Sumerian and Egyptian societies these innovations in communication and institutionalisation of power relations led to the invention of the Man Machine. It is a formal organisational methodology where a ruling class control the masses via intricate traditions and superstitions, which are the source of the myth of "institutional authority" or organisational power. The myth of authority had first evolved within the context of the tribe, arising from the informal structure and then being enshrined within the formal structure.

I call it an "invented technology" and not a natural evolution because it did not arise spontaneously in all cultures but rather, the historical record seems to suggest that it arose in some particular place and because of its virulence it spread, destabilising the natural balance and dominating cultures until it has now spread throughout the globe. The Australian Aborigines, for example, have a recorded history in the form of cave paintings and legends going back some 80,000 years in which this technology did not arise and they lived in a natural balance with each other and the landscape. The man machine was only recently imposed on them in the 18'th century when the British invaded.

A brief aside: although I later use words such as ‘broken’ and ‘subvert’ I do not imply any form of value judgement as to whether this is right or wrong. Such values depend entirely upon ones agenda; if one wishes to remain natural then it is wrong but if one wishes to create beyond oneself and extend the range of the natural then it may be right. But these are a separate issue and here I simply discuss general phenomena.

Furthermore, although this discussion touches upon sensitive subjects, such as the treatment of the young, for the sake of clarity I avoid polite euphemisms that conceal the truth and I use direct terms in a descriptive sense. For example, one may speak of breaking-in a horse to make it obedient to human commands and useful within the context of human agendas. Or one may speak of educating it for its own benefit and teaching it to become a useful member of a community. The first statement is far more direct.

To build the man machine the informal structure had to be disempowered, the tribe had to be broken, its processes and traditions had to be subverted. Mysticism was the life blood of the informal structure, it gave people direct contact with reality, it empowered and inspired them to believe in themselves so breaking this, demonising mysticism, subverting its principles and turning them from self-empowering to self-enslaving was perhaps the most important step. Mysticism wielded great power in people's minds so that power not only had to be subverted but it was also diverted and transformed into hierarchical politicised religions that imposed laws and that required worship of human representatives in the form of a priesthood (also see Psychological Perspective on Civilisation). Even though this no longer gave people meaningful contact with reality and real satisfaction, it retained just enough of the elements of mysticism so that it still resonated strongly with people's minds.

This process of subversion is similar to when one takes a wild animal and subverts its basic functions in order to extract work from it, such as yoking it to a plough and perhaps using some of its natural inclinations such as hunger or fear to motivate it and manipulate it. Similarly one takes a natural collective of humans and yokes them into a labour system of some kind. For this the wisdom of the tribe and the personal contact with the world had to be broken. As the personal subjective relationship between an individual and their immediate experience of the world was broken, we became isolated physical bodies, able to be utilised as components within the man machine.

This same general pattern has been seen repeated in numerous colonisations throughout history. Furthermore each new generation that is born is a product of a holistic resonance with the world, the organic collective is trying to counter the imbalance, but the formal structure must break each generation in turn to maintain the man machine. In a healthy organic society adolescents are not as they are in modern societies, in modern societies the young are being heavily conditioned, their minds are being re-programmed, their natural spirits broken, their innate hope and joy are being crushed, they are being alienated from themselves, from others and the whole organic cosmos. Those with weak wills who succumb easily to this process seem to be happy and well adjusted whilst those with strong wills rail and fight against it even though they don't understand what or who they are fighting, yet they know they are being attacked. They are being assimilated into a cultural construct and in this way they are bound into the man machine and they become useful members of society. Their life energies are diverted from the purpose of living their lives and channelled in ways that are useful for the man machine.

The inner vision of the world as it could and should be, the hope that we each hold in our hearts, this vision must be betrayed and replaced by societal myths, expediency and obedience. Just as the tribe's contact with the web of life was broken, so too each child's contact with their inner life must be broken. Just like a horse they must be "broken in". Through rewards and punishments their natural autonomy and sense of self-worth must be broken and replaced by a craving for acceptance and approval by others; particularly those who wield the myth of authority in whatever form it may manifest.

With the people confused and powerless, and the organisational structure of the tribe shattered the people then become a raw material that can be fashioned into the man machine. The shaman became the high priest who became the media, the tribal elders became the pharaoh who became the government/corporate sectors and the people became workers and consumers. The population is immersed in a system of myths backed up by physical and psychological force; the power is appropriated from the people and a hierarchical system of roles distributes the power and applies it in specialised situations.

Thus a population of humans can be organised into a mass labour system, which can be centrally controlled and has a productive capacity far exceeding that of an individual human (just as eukaryote organisations, or organisms, exceeded individual eukaryotes). Thus a single person or single group could wield the power of many as if it was their own. This magnified the power of certain people's egos by many millions of times and smaller and less mechanised populations were overpowered and annihilated or assimilated, and vast works were undertaken, some of which can still be seen today in the form of the pyramids.

This process has been going on for just over ten thousand years so it is still in the early stages but it has progressed in marked ways; the institutionalisation of power has become more entrenched, less questioned and more ubiquitous. People conceive of themselves primarily in terms of the organisational discourse, they are citizens, consumers, workers, students, job seekers, employees, officials and so on; not simply organisms or organic systems of experience and reproduction. We are no longer beings in the world but individuals in society.

This is not some conscious conspiracy; it is a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Each generation is broken and in turn breaks the following generation – each is simply doing what it feels to be the best in the context of their conditioning. Questions of right or wrong have no simple answers here and any line of questioning soon gets lost in the tangled web of social myths and subtle confusions. It is an organic process of self-organisation; a restructuring from one organisational principle to another. It is no surprise that the young "act up". In one respect their innate nature is in the process of being betrayed by their society and they are being deceived and alienated from themselves. In another respect they are being educated and refined, civilised and augmented in ways that will extend their latent abilities. When still innocent they can see the web of deceit for what it is although they don't understand what it means, but as they are educated and indoctrinated into society they internalise the subtle confusions and look out through the web rather than at the web. So by the time they are civilised they accept the distorted view of the world as 'normal' and no longer question it.

Youths are biologically programmed to be trusting so that they will more easily assimilate into society but they are only given euphemisms and positive propaganda such as "education for their own benefit" to explain what is happening to them, they are not able to comprehend the negative aspects. But the pain that they feel tells them that something bad is happening, so they are horribly confused by what is going on. This often leads to distrust and cynicism towards society, which in turn causes them to be perceived as trouble makers, thus they are further alienated. In this manner the process of socialisation produces many casualties, and the more unnatural society becomes the more conditioning is required to socialise the young. "As boys experience the pressures of the male role, their suicide rate increases 25,000%" [FR, FR]

There is a high casualty rate, not just through suicide but also through psychological trauma and other neuroses, fetishes and dysfunctions that people carry throughout the rest of their life [FR, FR, FR]. Most of these are considered 'normal' just as the man machine is considered 'normal' and so long as most people remain functional in some crude sense and become obedient then they can be usefully assimilated. It doesn't matter that they are essentially crippled inside and largely conforming to outer appearances of 'normality' so that they won't be further harassed or conditioned, it doesn't matter how much internal suffering there is so long as they remain outwardly functional. When people finally crack up they are then labelled insane or criminal and either subjected to harsh conditioning or are cast on the scrap heap. But so long as the majority of people accept the conditioning process and the casualties don’t cause too much damage, the process is successful and perpetuates from one generation to the next.

Over time the mechanisms and paths of communication have evolved considerably allowing for mass control of the mechanism of encountering the world. People now primarily interpret their world via the lens of culture and media dominated discourses rather than via direct experience and word of mouth. The means of production and distribution have evolved to the extent that people are entirely dependent upon the organisation for their necessities of life. The geographical arrangement of people has become rigidly institutionalised with cities encasing people into multi-cellular like structures of apartment blocks and suburban blocks that act like cell membranes encasing the human nucleus and providing an interface into the larger organisation via telephones, television, transportation systems, electricity, water, cable TV, internet and so on.

I describe the basic technology as the "man machine", where I use the word 'man' in the sense of mankind, however throughout most of civilisation it has been men that were most assimilated into the machine as soldiers, labourers, merchants, statesmen and so on [FR, FR], leaving women mostly free and in their natural state. It is only recently through what was called "women's liberation" that women lost much of their remaining freedom and became almost as assimilated into the mechanism as the men.

Women were originally protected by the myth that they were 'useless' for the purposes of the man machine. This was most likely the case because those who first developed the man machine knew that it was an unnatural contrivance so they built that prejudice into the mythology of the machine so that the basic family unit would retain some kind of natural balance and would keep producing generations of men that could be harvested and assimilated into the machine. They only lightly harvested the women because the women served a vital function by fulfilling their natural function. But over time people lost sight of the natural condition and came to see the machine as 'normal' and the natural condition as 'primitive' so women didn't want to be left out and the machine couldn't see why that "natural resource should go to waste". So women were assimilated just like the men but in doing so we have largely lost contact with the natural state of human existence and all of our minds and lives are being assimilated to the fullest extent thereby destabilising the natural support structure on top of which the machine operates. In its narrow minded push for productivity it is destroying its natural foundation and is creating systemic dysfunctions that manifest as growing social fragmentation, depression, delinquency and suicide.

The idea of supposed uselessness protecting one from exploitation reminds me of a Daoist saying, by Chuang Tzu: "Once on a journey Tzu-ch'i saw a huge tree with strange knots, big enough to shelter a thousand chariots in its shade. Tzu-ch'i said "What kind of tree is this? It must have unusual potential." Looking up at its branches, he saw they were too crooked to be used as beams. Looking down at its roots, he saw it was not solid enough to be used as coffins. When he tasted the leaves, his mouth became inflamed; and they had a smell that would madden a person for days. Tzu-ch'i said, "This is in fact a useless tree. That's how it got to be this big." Yes, this is why the sages cannot be exploited." [FR] The man machine doesn't understand or care about life, it only understands and cares about exploiting life to create products and services, hence life is conceived of as a "natural resource" and is inevitably exploited and destroyed. In order to live naturally one must be independent of the man machine, useless to the man machine and to not be an obstacle in its way and then you will be totally ignored by it and left to live a natural life. If you are dependent on it or you are useful to it or you stand it its way then you will be cut down and turned into timber or fire wood.

This overall story of the man machine is essentially a brief outline of the systemic history of human civilisation, it is essentially the domestication of human beings, which was most likely adapted from lessons learnt from the domestication of animals, which is possibly why the Australian Aborigines never developed it because they didn't engage in domestication of any kind but instead developed technologies of integration into the natural environment.

For example: "Songlines are an ancient cultural concept, meme and motif perpetuated through oral lore and singing and other storytelling modalites such as dance and painting. Songlines are an intricate series of song cycles that identify landmarks and subtle tracking mechanisms for navigation... By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous peoples could navigate vast distances (often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interiority). The continent of Australia is a system-reticulum of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through disparate terrain and lands of many different indigenous peoples ~ peoples who may speak markedly different languages and champion significantly different cultural traditions... They form a "labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as 'Dreaming-tracks' or 'Songlines'; to the Aboriginals as the 'Footprints of the Ancestors' or the 'Way of the Law'." [FR]

"The Dreaming Spirits "also deposited the spirits of unborn children and determined the forms of human society." Therefore, establishing tribal law and totemic paradigms."... To indigenous peoples, songlines also confer a title and deed to the holder or the keeper of the particular song (or Dreaming) and entails an inherent obligation and reciprocity with the land. " [FR]

Although indigenous peoples weave their culture and traditions into the fabric of the lines they are first discovered and then elaborated. The lines: "chart the energetic currents of the earth . Therefore, in this view, songlines may be understood as the Earth's subtle energy currents: ley lines in the United Kingdom, naga or snake lines in India, dragon lines (dragon current, or lung-mei) in China... "A number of anthropologists and scientists have found that the Aborigines possess an acute sensitivity to magnetic and vital force flows emanating form the earth, which they refer to as songlines. Perhaps the oldest geomancy tradition, songlines are fundamental to Aboriginal initiatic knowledge and religion."" [FR]

Further Comments

Unlike indigenous societies that maintain their connection with nature we have drifted into social constructs that become our "new nature" and thus we are becoming cells within larger organisms where our socially constructed environment is "their body". These higher level organisms use us to pursue their own agendas just as we use our cells to pursue our agendas and so we lose control over civilisation as it takes on a life of its own. When we look out on our world from our human perspective, we primarily see a world of humans engaged in interactions and concepts such as ‘nation’ or ‘corporation’ are just abstract concepts used to organise us into productive configurations. But think about how you would appear from the perspective of a single cell in your body, it would only experience a world of cells engaged in interactions, and concepts such as ‘body’ or ‘person’ are just abstract concepts.

Furthermore, if you approached people on the street and asked them about the cellular interactions occurring within their bodies, to most people this would be a remote and abstract issue whilst they are more concerned about issues on the level of humans such as social politics, sex and money. Similarly the interactions between us humans are a rather abstract and remote issue to organisations and they are more concerned about issues on their own level such as organisational politics, trade/diplomatic relations and assets such as workforce, PR, capital, investments and so on. Each system experiences and conceives of its world on its own level of complexity; cells see a world of cells, humans see a world of humans and organisations see a world of organisations. There is no correct perspective, each view is correct in its own way but each is fundamentally limited because existence operates at all levels.

If one likens individuals in an organisation to cells within an organism then our belief systems, world-views or organising principles within our minds are analogous to the DNA within the cell's nucleus. It is the transformation matrix that takes an input stimulus and transforms it into a cascading sequence of internal state transformations, which result in an output signal. It provides the perceptual entity with an interpretive mechanism, providing meaning, value, context, orientation and direction; it structures behaviour.

If each of our belief systems were to change, this is like the DNA within each cell in an organism changing, each cell then behaves differently and interacts differently thus forming different collective emergent forms, thus the whole body of the organism or organisation takes on a different form and essentially becomes a new species of being. Furthermore, just as viruses spread amongst cells and subtly influence their DNA and their overall behaviour of the cells, so too do memes (cognitive viruses) spread amongst humans and subtly influence our beliefs and our overall behaviour.

Furthermore, it has been noted that underlying the ageing process there is the phenomenon where the DNA becomes 'frayed', most likely due to years of exposure to toxins and lifestyle abuses thus leading to holistically dysfunctional behaviour. This could be likened to a population where the people become cynical and self-centred due to years of hypocrisy and egoic reinforcement from society, thus breaking down the collective cohesion. If people's world-views were to align with truth and their allegiance to the collective was holistically cultivated then a society could persist indefinitely and there would be no intrinsic ageing process. But so far, all societies seem to experience gradual decay, tending towards decadence and widespread cynicism.

To further illustrate the parallels between organisms and organisations, consider the difference between solitary-single-cells (bacteria) / animals and social-single-cells (cells that form multi-cellular organisms) / humans. A solitary single cell and an animal is exquisitely adapted to its natural environment. If you observe a bacteria or an animal in nature it is harmoniously integrated into its world. However social-single-cells and humans are integrated into their organisational niches. If they are released into the environment on their own the cells and humans cannot fend for themselves and they rapidly die. However when social-single-cells and humans are safely ensconced within their organisational niches they thrive and collectively wield great power. For example, take a typical city dweller and put them in a deep and wild forest and see how long they last, or scrape some skin cells and let them fend for themselves and see how long they last. Both of these types of beings are unlike animals and bacteria because they are totally dependent on their organisational niches.

By abstracting out the general principles inherent in different scenarios we see that system theory can help shed light on many seemingly different but intricately related phenomena. Each level of creation is like an analogy for other levels. A cell is like a human and a human is like an organisation; each can experience similar problems and exhibit similar potentials. Just as the first Cambrian explosion passed through a period of instability and eventually resulted in harmony on a higher level with vast ancient forests where there was once vast fields of single cellular slime, so too can this Cambrian explosion eventually result in harmony on a higher level once the period of instability has been overcome.

The human population has increased well past the natural capacity of the environment thus people live in areas or in ways that were previously untenable but have been made viable through technology and organisational systems such as artificial water supplies, heating, delivery of goods etc. This is analogous to eukaryote organisations occupying locations that were previously impossible; consider birds; no single eukaryote can fly nor can a eukaryote cross a desert like a camel. People have become almost entirely dependent upon the organisation; if it were to collapse there would be massive starvation, conflict, suffering and general devastation of the environment and the fabric of the society. This is analogous to a multi-cellular organism dying, the collective cohesion breaks down and the individual eukaryotes are unable to persist without the collective and the entire system starts to decompose; although hair and nail cells survive longer than most.

The productive capacity of these multi-organism organisations has increased markedly with whole landscapes being remodelled, the global atmosphere changing, the capacity to totally annihilate the planets biosphere, the ability to send probes to neighbouring planets, the ability to exert control over vast complex systems via propaganda, surveillance, deterrence, sanctions and intervention. Their sphere of physical awareness and control is on the scale of hundreds of kilometres to many tens of thousands of kilometres.

Organisations form according to the lines of communication; for example consider Machiavelli's advice on developing a dictatorship. Create a hierarchical system where power flows down from the top, each level keeps a close eye on the one beneath and there is a culture of extreme distrust and fear, thus eliminating any other lines of cross communication from forming. Thus even if everyone desires to revolt no one can because there are no lines of communication along which the revolt can be organised. If any particular person revolts they will be immediately silenced and made an example of by those above them in order to carry out their duty and ingratiate themselves with their superiors and ultimately with the dictator. Each person is forced to seek only their own advantage and to fear only their own suffering, and they are only able to do this within the narrow confines of the power structure within which they are trapped. Any form of holistic thinking or unselfish activity is automatically stamped out due to the very nature of the system.

In contemporary western societies, the media forms a high bandwidth channel of influence that attempts to condition people to the dominant establishment perspective of materialism, capitalism, consumption, distrust of people, trust in institutions, fear and insecurity and so on. The media follows the establishment perspective and never questions its legitimacy but always reinforces it. In contrast there are large numbers of people questioning the motives and methods and they are condemning the actions of the government and the hegemonic system in general but this can only propagate by word of mouth; through the informal structure of society, whilst the establishment line propagates via all of the media channels and thereby through much of the grape vine as well.

Of course the media propagates some of the non-establishment line but only minimally and only a distorted version expressed from the establishment perspective (much like an inoculation). Thus the field of communication and organising potential is heavily geared to favour the establishment or the formal structure of society. Therefore our societies are organising more and more in the image of the formal structure as opposed to the informal structure, we are becoming less of an organic self-organising community and more of a mechanistic controlled hierarchical organisation. The process is still organic but on a higher level, just like a solar panel is like a leaf but on a higher level.

Another factor that determines and controls the development of systems is a system of laws. They are abstract mechanisms for channelling institutional power and they also form lines of communication, interaction and enforcement. A particular system of laws can influence the type of collective organisations that can form. Thus in the ongoing jostling between the US and the UN the US seems to be saying that it refuses to be a part of a collective world system under the UN and defined by international law, indeed it is attempting to dominate and control the world by building a global system of its own that will harness the productive capacity of the world in favour of the US. They envisage a system with US military supremacy as the institutional power and US interests enshrined within the system of laws.

There has been and currently is a plethora of organisational structures which are engaging with their environment and with each other, such as empires, corporations, politicised religions, unions, guilds, industrial sectors such as media, manufacturing, fashion, entertainment, junk food, weapons, etc, universities, nations, national conglomerates such as the European Union or the United Nations, militaries... also activist groups, humanitarian groups, interest groups, etc. These occur on many different scales, in many different contexts, for many different purposes and have many different effects. They form a complex ecosystem that is highly unbalanced and is constantly innovating and readjusting; thus previous ecosystems and other collectives are being weakened, annihilated or assimilated into the new world that is evolving.

Imagine how the world would have seemed to individual single cells 550 million years ago. The stable balance that they had experienced for billions of years was being torn apart. Strange new organisations of cells were storming about creating intrigue and destruction. The very fabric of their environment was falling apart with the methane rich atmosphere being polluted with oxygen. It must have seemed that the world was coming to an end. The current devastation is a part of the transition process, but it need not be so devastating. If the new system was optimally creative it would build upon what is previously in place and extend it, rather than arbitrarily homogenise and destroy the previous cycle of creation in order to create a blank canvas. If we can maintain the biodiversity as well and build human diversity the new system will be greatly enriched by the millions of years of evolution that has preceded it. It is from lack of awareness, imagination and sensitivity that the transition process is so destructive.

We humans are vastly different to cells, so too are the present organisational innovations different from those of 550 millions years ago that evolved into organisms. This difference however is primarily in detail not in their underlying essence. One can observe the analogous formation of primitive organs such as industry, media, education, etc that coordinate to form primitive nationalist organisms. These have membranes or borders, they have organs of sense perception and of action such as trade, military, diplomacy, propaganda and so on. They have a crude sense of identity, well-being, memory, intelligence, etc.

They perceive and interpret their environment via neural nets that are made of humans connected together rather than cells, and with these they make decisions and act upon them. Just as our bodies have only a small percentage of cells that are actually human (i.e. that contain human DNA) so too are these organisations composed mostly of machinery, infrastructure, animals, legal documents, lines of communication and so on, with only a small percentage of their total mass being composed of actual humans. The parallel is incomplete because present day multi-cellular organisms are highly evolved and tightly integrated whilst multi-organism organisations are newly evolved and loosely integrated.

However it is increasingly the case that there is no particular person or identifiable group of people in control of this world; power has been so dispersed, the interconnections and dependencies within the system are so complex and intricate that they develop their own dynamic. The system itself is beginning to take control rather than any particular parts of it. This has occurred long ago in the case of organisms, there is no particular cell or group of cells that controls the organism; the consciousness that humans experience is a phenomenon that arises only on the level of the whole organism not on the level of the cells. Thus we as humans are gradually losing control over the organisations that we have formed and the organisations themselves are beginning to set the agenda, mediate the discourse, perform the actions and make the decisions.

The latter case is clearly seen in domestic politics were for some time now issues dear to individual people are constantly attacked and undermined by governments that are purportedly there to serve the interests of the people. The governments now serve the interests of the nation as an organisation; industry sectors (organs), economics (metabolism), foreign policy (inter organisational issues) and so on. These are the key factors that determine government policy and priorities.

Education, health care, welfare, culture and so on are only a side issue that governments consider in the context of being re-elected or because of their indirect influence on national well-being, they are no longer a key aspect of the discourse which is now primarily set in terms of issues regarding the organisation as a whole. Just as humans give little thought to their cells and tend to think in terms of human level desires so too are governments thinking in terms of national agendas and giving less and less thought to people. Just as we don't understand our cells, our organisations don't understand us, we are parts of their bodies, we respond to their wills and perform functions for them but beyond that we are specks.

We are presently in a transitional phase where multi-cellular organisms, as the measure of this world are on their way out and multi-organism organisations are beginning to individuate and dominate the world. No longer are the major issues and dynamics that of humans or organisms, they involve corporations, globalisation, nations, wars, trading relations and so on. The discourse has shifted to a higher level and now predominantly involve organisations interacting and competing in an ecosystem defined in terms of organisations. The new discourse occurs on a power level that individuals cannot match, e.g. no individual can successfully fight against a nationalist military, no family business can compete with a multinational corporation, no individual propagandist can compete with the mass media.

What to Do?

This is the direction of the process of systemic evolution; we cannot prevent it. We have never left nature behind; through us nature is reaching towards higher levels of being. We are presently at the beginning of the transitional phase; in the distant future humans may be parts of larger organisms just like cells are within our own bodies; this has already happened to a significant extent but could potential develop much further. The difficulties and traumas that we individually face (social fragmentation, exploitation, alienation) and collectively face on a global scale (political struggles, poverty, wars, resource depletion, pollution) are largely due to these transitions that are occurring.

Innovations are arising and are being tested by natural selection; models of nationalism, socialism, capitalism, democracy, corporatism, fascism, exploitation, domination, cooperation, compassion, slavery, propagandist deception, rational consensus and so on. All of these and more are aspects of the innovations and trials that are occurring. Ultimately the evolutionary process will decide how things go and what mechanisms and organisational patterns are successful but we are not entirely powerless.

To some degree we organisms still have control over this world, the transition period is not over, we can control to some degree which paths will be explored and which will succeed, we can choose between fascist dictatorships or genuine democracies, between propagandist deception or rational consensus. We can choose between systems that preserve our humanity or diminish it, that nourish us or deplete us, that inform us or deceive us, that unite us or divide us, that help us to grow and develop our still untapped potential or that oppress us and mould us into uniform automatons that are nothing more than homogenised building blocks of a larger system.

Utopias are unreachable, they are stable states that are dead ends for evolution and the force of evolution has vast momentum and will not stop. Whilst it has effectively stalled on the human physical organic level with the removal of survival pressure based upon physical fitness (indeed our gene pool is dispersing in genome space and diversifying thus blurring the very concept of humanity as we slowly morph into many sub-species), it has started to take effect in terms of survival pressure based on the ability to assimilate into the collective, thus leading to the specialisation and segmentation of society. It has also taken effect upon the collective level where new organisational organisms are arising out of human collective integration.

Thus no static state utopia's can be reached whilst ever there is an evolutionary force driving change. It is maybe theoretically possible that a concerted and collective effort by everyone accompanied by a complete change in our organisations and institutions could perhaps neutralise the effect of systemic evolution and thereby bring about the possibility of a human utopia. But would such a dead end be desirable? Perhaps for the egos of individual humans it might, but there is something deep inside of us that links us with the world and binds us to the process of evolution, of reaching beyond ourselves, it is this drive that has brought us thus far. This drive would be restless in any static state; virtually all true innovation, cooperation and creativity would need to be abolished.

It would be extremely difficult and ultimately crippling for humans to reach for utopia, the best we can do is to be aware of the types of higher level systems that we form and to teach these systems about “being in the world” and about ourselves so that they will not mistreat us. It is in our power to create systems that respect us as integral parts, that provide for our needs, not only physical but psychological and spiritual. We all have experience with the variety of types of humans and their behaviours, this can give us some way of conceptually grasping different types of 'superhumans' (higher organisms composed of humans).

We should endeavour to form systems that integrate harmoniously with their environment and behave in reasonable, healthy and responsible ways. Systems that behave more like a wise and revered person, a balanced and contented person, even a yogi or a saint but not a mercenary, a glutton, a drug addict or a schizophrenic.

Currently most of the super-systems or 'superhumans' are very base and primitive, there are oil junkies with real ego problems that go about the world using violence, deception and terror to force themselves onto others and to exploit and dominate them. We have corporations that thrive on greed and encourage confusion, neurosis and blind mass consumption. We have a plethora of national governments that neglect their populations and engage in school-yard politics with each other. We have an economic system that implements a regime of artificial scarcity amidst the greatest abundance the world has ever known, exploiting billions of humans for the benefit of a few organisations. Forcing billions of humans into starvation and grinding poverty whilst goading others into over consumption who then suffer from afluenza [FR]. We have military / industrial complexes that thrive on constant conflict between organisations that have a terrible toll in terms of human lives and social and ecological destruction.

These processes are the metabolisms of the systems that we create;, these systems come to depend on these processes. So if a system forms which depends upon military conflict, or an addiction to oil, or deceiving generation after generation of youths, then no matter what we humans try and do, these phenomena will keep arising via some avenue in order to keep the system alive. So long as the dependence exists the system will strive to continue to reproduce the phenomena. As soon as we reduce the problem a systemic craving will arise and very soon this will break out into other problems via other avenues. These systems don't know about the ramifications from our perspective, they only know that to them it feels good; just like someone who is addicted to a poisonous drug, it doesn't matter if it is killing their cells, so long as they get their fix that is all that matters to them.

We need to exercise understanding and care when dealing with any life forms such as ecosystems, social systems, agriculture, viruses, epidemiology and so on. But memes and organisations are life forms as well, with whom we are engaged in deeply symbiotic relationships. We need to better comprehend the nature of these relationships, their dependencies, tendencies, power relations, interaction strategies, potentials, dangers and likely abuses. For example, many forms of propaganda and advertising are forms of biological warfare using cognitive viruses but we allow them to be routinely used on whole populations for the most petty of reasons and their true destructive nature is not recognised.

Memes are cognitive viruses that occupy our collective mind space and we as individuals are cells within organisations; our collective life is the metabolism of organisations. Thus memes occupy us from within and organisations metabolise us (or feed upon our life energies) from without. We also metabolise memes and we occupy organisations, each life form is intricately entwined with each other, across all levels. Thus there are interactions between memes, individuals and organisations whereby, for example, commercial memes in people's minds result in commercial organisations which output commercial propaganda that reinforces the commercial memes in peoples minds and all levels resonate into a strongly bound and tightly interacting commercial system, wherein the individual has lost control and the system feeds upon society.

A useful meditation is to think of oneself as a cellular organisation; look within at all of the lives that are harnessed within oneself, each cell is a living being, then look out at society as an organism such as yourself. If you look long, hard, deeply and earnestly much of the problems of this world will be brought into focus. A single cell possesses, all of the functionality of an organism and a single human is a microcosm of society, each is a mirror of the other. Imagine if your left and right hands were constantly competing rather than cooperating, or your head neglected your feet, which became battered and bruised.

Or even worse, if every single cell in your body developed an ego and tried to comprehend its world entirely from its own perspective without aligning with the greater 'flow' and harmony. Through egoic arrogance these cells would start living 'lifestyles' where they mindlessly consume your biological resources for their own enjoyment and your body would rapidly fragment, with its intricate metabolic processes becoming diseased and dysfunctional.

Within ourselves the cellular collective is the organic population and this has given rise to a centralised power nexus that has taken on a life of its own. This is our conscious mind, our ego, the part of ourselves that thinks ‘I’. So too in society the population of individuals has given rise to a centralised power nexus that is taking on a life of its own. It is a cultural construct that permeates the public discourse, economy, media, government, bureaucracy, legislature, corporate sector and so on right into our private thoughts and everyday lives. It too is beginning to individuate and to think ‘I’. Just as we ignore the well-being of our cellular collectives and seek the advantage of our conscious selves – thinking only of ‘I’. So too are governments, and organisations in general, starting to do this to an increasing degree and through the agency of human civilisation the planet as whole is starting to do this.

Within us we may find parallels to all of the phenomena of society and vice versa, from cells to organisms to organisations there are complex and subtle generative forces that produce and condition each new level of creation; our society is a product of humanity but it is not human just as we are a product of eukaryotes but we are not eukaryotes.

The minds of organisms have been geared toward the individual perspective over millions of years of evolution as individual organisms. Still this perspective dominates, thus the real dynamics of the present context remains elusive and confusing to many people. Often the discourse shifts between the individual level and the organisational level in order to exploit the confusion as a means of control. For example, when we attack them all kinds of justifications are given on an organisational level, and the individual victims are overlooked and devalued. When they attack us the focus is primarily on individual stories of suffering, and the political machinations that may have incited the attack are overlooked.

But our gravest danger lies in becoming habituated to the man machine and thinking it to be 'normal', thereby losing touch with reality and drifting into a socially constructed world that comes more and more into conflict with reality. With each successive generation we become more dependent upon the societal organisation and come to consider it as totally 'normal' and as the organisations gain control and condition us more we become less questioning and more entrapped within their discourse. We gradually lose touch with the natural state of being and become more entangled within the socialised state of being. The path towards harmony and peace lies with reconnecting with our natural foundations, both individually and culturally [FR, FR]. We needn't dismantle what has grown up out of our collective integration but we must be careful to maintain our awareness and to not lose control and drift into delusion and suffering.

The world has evolved to a higher level of being without us realising, just as the cells did not realise what was happening to them. In the case of the single cells, they became entirely enslaved within our bodies just as organisations try to enslave us within their bodies, but we as humans are far more aware than single cells. This Second Cambrian Explosion is different from the first; we humans have a greater capacity to perceive what is happening, to care about what is happening and to act to influence what is happening. We can only stop this process of evolution by ceasing to cooperate and interact, by living in relative isolation in small tribes; this would cause evolution to stagnate and ultimately we would become anachronistic and redundant, the world would move on and leave us behind. Therefore evolution is necessary and inevitable but the question is “what kind of evolution?”.

It is our individual perceptions, beliefs, responses and interactions that collectively form into these higher-level organisms, therefore we may wield considerable influence over this process of evolution by re-imagining the situation and controlling the way that we relate to each other and our world. We may create brutal regimes that treat humans like expendable cells where we get sick, we suffer, we die, but we keep growing back so it’s alright to the organisation. Or we may create regimes that recognise our humanity, that encourage our growth and development, that harness the best of our potential and lead on to greater growth and evolution on all levels. It is through the living of our own lives that we create beyond ourselves so we must live well to create well.

Best wishes : )
John Ringland

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