The Community Organism
A community is a self-organizing being. These posts focus on the connection between our ordinary behaviors and the way they knit together a “superorganism” via unconscious participation.
Long exposure of a crowd trying to enter Vasileostrovskaya subway station in Saint Petersburg during the collapse of the Soviet Union (1992) by Russian photographer Alexey Titarenko
Mean exactly what they sound like: Fear of the new and Love of the new.
They aren’t cute made-up words, they are technical terms from biology. Animal ethologists (they study behavior) coined them because they needed to describe a common trait variation. Within a species, there are individuals who exhibit an openness to novelty. They try different foods, different hunting or mating techniques, for example. This is Neophilia.
The only way we could notice this is against a background of “by the book ” individuals. These are not risk-takers, these are ones who typically define “normal behavior “. Whenever an animal’s general survival strategy and behavior is described, it ‘s the story of the Neophobes. But the deeper story is that Neophiles, while they live risky and often unsuccessful lives as individuals are key to survival and evolution.
In fact, it ‘s likely that that the pattern lived out by the neophobes was initiated by neophiles. First, the neophile may simply hit upon a more successful approach, and thrive. Second, when the species experiences a crisis in food or health or predation, the neophiles are likelier to be “the resistant strain ” that survives. These are the two main reasons for subspecies variations. So if you imagine this heretical thought; that life, rather being the 100% dumb luck festival of the neo-Darwinians, has strategic algorithms for success, then these observations make perfect sense. Where or how these exist and operate is not my problem here. When patterns predictably exist in nature there are underlying causes to be found. If you follow this blog you know that my vaguely mystical point of view is not pointing to a “god did it ” conclusion and is not content with a “mere coincidence ” explanation.1 Continue reading
Hal Whitehead, Kevin N. Laland, Luke Rendell, Rose Thorogood & Andrew Whiten Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 2405 (2019)
Culture (behaviour based on socially transmitted information) is present in diverse animal species, yet how it interacts with genetic evolution remains largely unexplored. Here, we review the evidence for gene-culture coevolution in animals, especially birds, cetaceans and primates. We describe how culture can relax or intensify selection under different circumstances, create new selection pressures by changing ecology or behaviour, and favour adaptations, including in other species. Finally, we illustrate how, through culturally mediated migration and assortative mating, culture can shape population genetic structure and diversity. This evidence suggests strongly that animal culture plays an important evolutionary role, and we encourage explicit analyses of gene-culture coevolution in nature.
An interesting short article at livescience.com about the Neolithic revolution, the brief period when humanity shifted from wandering small tribes to settled agricultural communities. It was a radical shift in lifestyle that undoubtedly challenged the self-control of all participants. One of these early Neolithic communities in southern Turkey lasted for over a thousand years and provides fascinating insights into the experiment in living that took place there. It was densely populated, a proto-city.
The archeological record paints a picture of people pushed beyond coping to into routine violence.
“Archaeologists recently discovered that the transition from foraging to a more communal farming lifestyle raised significant challenges for people who lived at Çatalhöyük, a 32-acre site in southern Turkey that was occupied from 7100 B.C. to 5950 B.C. Çatalhöyük was home to as many as 8,000 people at its peak, and is one of the earliest known cities.
Overcrowding and other factors created a highly stressful environment. And for Çatalhöyük’s Neolithic occupants, stress found an outlet in brutal violence, including bashes to the backs of heads with projectiles, scientists reported in a new study.”
Major premise: All sexual organisms have a sexual strategy.
In part 1 I talked about how desire has sculpted human bodies into what would have been a sexual superstimulus 200 thousand years ago but I left out an essential underlying principle. Unless you are a drab shell of a person who has entirely given up, there is a layer of your daily behavior that is about sustaining fuckability. It’s unlikely you check the mirror on your way out the door and say “Awesome, still fuckable” but I’ll bet that thought HAS surfaced, maybe using different words or no words at all, many times. The fact that you can estimate your fuckability quotient by glancing in a mirror points to the underlying principle.
Even the people who would summon up an old school “harumph, well I never…” of denial at the suggestion that they glance at everyone’s naughty bits or evaluate their own fuckability this way, absolutely do operate this way but with their naivety draped modestly over their self-awareness. Nature cares about the behavior, not the self-awareness. Nothing is more representative of our behavior than to think endlessly of sex while doing everything in our power to hide those thoughts from others.
With the origin of humanity, nature launched a new project that included radical departures from her standard rules for mammals. Having a harumph reaction to sexuality is uniquely human and a frankly weird deviation from standard earthly norms. Animals have a “stop that!” reaction, and a”get that thing away from me” reaction but they lack the harumph. Why? Why do we Harumph? Why don’t they? What exactly does “harumph” accomplish for us? That end will be tied up in part 3. Continue reading
(Note: This article needs editing. I’m leaving it published because that’s how I hold myself accountable to get that done)
Cultural tension force and the Human Operating System (HOS)
Humans naturally group together to form communities. Culture is the connecting, unifying skin that automatically grows over these communities, reflecting them, defining them, and binding them together. They are now a community organism, existing through one lens as their normal human selves but through another lens as a massive individual, autonomous self as unaware of us as we are of it.
What the Hell are you talking about, Hugh?
The Human Operating System or HOS is the innate battery of automatic and mostly unconscious behaviors that humans display by default, a handful of tiny cultures may not use these defaults but defining anything by the exception to its rule is being perversely counter-intuitive on purpose. It’s a demand that we ignore most of what we see going on in favor of something that is barely going on at all.
Tension force is societal homeostasis generated by opposing ideas. You could visualize it as the reason why both teams in a tug of war don’t simply fall on their asses.
The advent of life on earth was a revolutionary uptick in the complexity of the universe. It was unlike all that preceded it but it wasn’t much to look at. It remained that way, asexually replicating till time itself grew bored and wished to go do something else.
At last another revolution appeared… a revolution of making new and different things forever: Sexual reproduction.
Top priority was making new combinations of life and new combinations out of those combinations. Obviously, any organism capable of sexual reproduction has to have a reproductive system. This is the HOW. If all we had was the HOW, the revolution would fail for want of a WHY. What is the WHY of sexual reproduction?
You look beautiful tonight, that color is incredible on you. God, you smell good. In this light, you look like an angel. I never thought I could feel this way. Kiss me.
The WHY is Attraction, Desire, Approach, and Embrace. Without desire, life would have stopped evolving at blue-green algae. Let’s imagine that nature herself wants sexual reproduction to succeed in spreading innovation, diversity, and beauty in an ever-expanding wave around the world. The first thing SHE has to do is make everything want it as badly as she does.
And Nature said, “Let there be lust”. Continue reading
In the film “The Matrix”, the agents were the guardians of the status quo: The avatar embodiment of defending their hive. When aware of a crime, the ordinary humans nearby would violently morph into agents and jump into action.
Just like us.
Every one of us can be triggered into becoming Agent Smith, and probably has been multiple times. Embodying Agent Smith means sufficient pressure on your “that aint right” nerve to pop out of our usual peace preserving, deferential, social style into “Stop that immediately!” intervening authority. Unlike the agents, we don’t have a flat, universal scale of good and bad. We have one spectrum of “How much do I disapprove of this?” and a related “How much am I going to express that disapproval?” Imagine a naked person wandering through your neighborhood holding a beer. You notice and immediately go alert like a watchdog because this person has wandered out of social bounds and become unpredictable. Automatically you are scanning for story and probabilities. Are they drunk? Hurt? Crazy? Just don’t give a fuck? The spectrum of response is something like this:
Meh. | Passively watching | Yelling a joke at them: “Did you forget something?” | The scowl | The yell from the sidelines | The run up and ask if they are OK | The run up and angrily confront them | The call 911 | The Whup-ass
There are human communities where wandering naked with a beer evokes nothing more than “Hey, Hugh.” and others where you might very well be killed. A parent beating a child in public will immediately attract an angry, protective crowd…here. An immodestly dressed woman (by local standards) may get a glare here, or a beating there. Social norms are set where the response gradient settles toward a dense single color. It is the point where most people would dare to respond without fear of violating another norm, and a flash mob of strangers would likely mirror their mood. Where the gradient becomes a solid, that is the center of gravity for cultural opposing force. It is the social dew point or flash point.
It’s one of those emergent effects of scaling up a personal reaction to a community level. While some cultural powers reinforce these standards from above, like all emergence it is a bottom up phenomena.
In a few other articles I’ve made the point that random millions of people having babies with other random millions of people give birth to consistent percentages of neurological and psychological types relative to the population at large, generation after generation. Some of these groups are defined as disabilities or pathologies. Example groups ADHD, and ASD are disabilities, sociopaths are seen as pathologies…it’s the second part of the name! They are generally thought to be caused by failures of infant development to complete normally and a pretty strong genetic connection. ASD is the obvious example of a spectrum disorder. Predictable numbers of ASD people are born year after year.
Clinically ASD includes a short list of recognized levels of the disability which exist along a continuum of severity. There’s a break here between the small range of what’s accepted as proven medical science to be autism and the much broader range of people who are legitimately diagnosed as autistic even though they are much higher functioning than the accepted range. It’s tacitly understood by therapists, teachers, parents, etc to be a section of spectrum that could be positioned at the end of the current spectrum and just pick up where it leaves off and run all the way out to those who have a few touches of these traits but are otherwise completely normal. That makes sense as the autism spectrum. I’m grandfathering ADHD in on this spectrum because 80% of high functioning autistics also have ADHD. Continue reading