Cosmos Café: On the Human Species' Ultimate Potential [01/30]

recording

(douglas duff) #1


[download audio]

Overview

“Let no one enter who is not a member of the human species”

So, what do I mean when I am attempting to ask for a discussion upon this question: What would a human species completion look like? For this slow time, deep time thought process, I ask that we only come in with an open mind and some preparatory pondering upon the questions asked below.

Seed Questions

  • Can there be a complete human species? Can we imagine our ultimate potential?
  • Can we be a complete human species in this world? Have we gone from the animal at one with nature attempting to be at one with the cosmos?
  • Does the mind interfere with our completion?
  • What is your furthest conception of the complete human species? What will we be collectively in hundreds of years? thousands? millions?
  • Is it prudent to state that animals are complete? Are they too floating in the same ark as we, unable to overcome their nature?
  • Can we imagine the ultimate human individual potential? What would such a perfect, ideal, aspired being be?
  • Do we have the necessary faculties to understand ourselves and the world around us?
  • Do all signs point towards an exploration of mind to better understand our “humanness” or can we learn to fix or separation from nature by improving what we already know?
  • _____? (Add in your own questions after voting)

Context and Backstory

@Douggins has a very small television, rarely used…the occasional educational DVD from the library, etc… During the holiday break, he visited his parents’ house and watched nature videos with the family on their quite massive television. Needless to say, he was in awe. Seeing the facial features, movements, etc. up close and in HD morphed his perspective on the animal realm…a deeper respect for their intelligence, their completion.

This video demonstrates the invisible depth behind even a tiny, nearly ‘brainless’ Japanese puffer fish (and ties in with the "mathematical” God we explored here ) :

Dailymail/PBS article goes more in depth: “The fish spends about six weeks building the structure that is 20 times its size, which also acts as a way to slow down the current in order to protect the eggs laid its mate.”

What is cut off at the end of the video is the courtship routine of the puffer fish. This intricate sand art attracts the female…“Once the design is finished, a female will swim into the center to signal approval and the male bites on her cheek to start the mating process.” They perform a ‘dance’ for a brief amount of time to lay their eggs, cover the eggs delicately in the sand , and then (if remembering correctly), the male deconstructs his monk-like sand art and goes about the remainder of his days.

Animals have not had much of a conscious chance to be involved in their perfection as they are. We see the pufferfish, seemingly without emotions as we define them, yet also seemingly fully realized. Take a look at the design structure (the “crop circle” as PBS article terms it): one could say that it is but only millions of years of adapting to the loss of eggs from the ocean current. If that was the case, why did they not cover the eggs with one of the shells nearby, or dig a hole like the sea turtle? This design might just be a pleasant vision to the human eye, a fractal pattern based upon current flow…or it could point to a higher order, some sort of aesthetic design by the fish itself, something else. Whatever the case, the pufferfish is in complete symbiosis with its environment and with its “destiny” as a pufferfish…there can be no other way to be a pufferfish than what it already is.

Other related videos:

Leopard Slug Mating:

Peacock Spider Dance:

Joe the Snow Crow:

This is only one aspect of life (the playful or sexual). What would it take for the human to reach the point of a “complete animal potential”? What would a human species completion or even a complete human look like?

To do as the animals do (to be at one, in a certain, final sense, with nature) seems beyond us, even in an ideal world that would be conducive for such living…psychologically we simply could not bring this about…even imagining [insert your best and brightest human here] as reaching the ultimate potential is seemingly light years away from any sort of human completion. Trying to scale this to the entire human species seems futile. Generation after generation of animals are more or less following the same evolutionary path. We rarely see another animal being evolve within a generation. Animals are perfect in the way that they are, even when faced with the daily unexpected encounters with life.

Now take a gander at the possibility of human completion. This need not necessarily involve any AI or futuristic robotic technology. What would be our highest potential for sexuality (hermaphroditic living?) or of play and love (new ideas of family units?) or of being? What does human completion mean to you?

Is consciousness something to be seen as a flaw in our existence, an unnecessary stage in evolution that has us searching, reaching out for the next thing to further our survival? Is consciousness but a chance occurrence, an evolutionary survival byproduct? Is consciousness the troublesome beast keeping us caged or the answer to our mountain of issues?

Other ideas we may wish to explore:

Trauma:

I see very little trauma in animals, in a certain sense. We can see pain and reactions to pain. But the human trauma spectrum…is it mostly arising as a result of our consciousness level? Our societies issues, our family issues? Could we raise a generation that is free from the human-created trauma? Once past the family/societal issues/traumas, could we confront the pains and traumas caused by being in the world?

Technology:

I would happily put aside my trauma and daily grind, even my often misguided (but personally fulfilling) personal revelatory experience to be a part of some collective expression of human fulfillment. I would not mind being a part of the lower race, even if it meant this higher being is in control. Do we need benevolent overlords? a virtual world? technology? to realize our full potential?

Enlightenment:

The concept of enlightenment is often viewed as a version of human completion. Enlightenment, in the Buddhist lexicon, usually means a mental understanding or a mental freeing from the self, from desire and suffering. Given that one becomes Enlightened, this individual tends to have a “drive” to come back into the human realm to enlighten others. If we allow space for imagining such Enlightenment, what would a complete human species ultimate potential look like? Most Enlightened individuals seemingly neglect the body, sexual desire, Must we overcome our humanness to become a true human?

Please add in any additional ideas and questions you may wish to explore.

See also:

Attempt 2

Can we imagine the ultimate human potential? What would such a perfect, ideal, aspired being be?

I brought up Aurobindo in “Attempt 1” for, in his Life Divine, he states “the earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, —God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.” Aurobindo is an image of an individual who had reached a higher realization of a “realized” mind, one who has realized the human potential and possibly realized the human species potential. Insert your own image here—Gebser, Plato, Buddha, Jesus. Even the latter two, as perfect as they come, had come in human form and had to work their way into becoming the “perfect” individual. Also, though they had reached ultimate reunion with God or True Enlightenment, they are still involved in the betterment of the human species. Jesus could be considered beyond the human form (as Christ). Jesus the man had been “forsaken;” even he, the most enlightened one, had touches of what we would call human estrangement.

The highest religious figures are set in place and have held their ground for they represent the highest human potential…but what would the highest species potential look like? Kingdom of God on Earth sounds nice, but do we have an image of this? The Bible and other sources might have us reflecting upon the physical location (take the pearly, golden images of heaven and juxtapose these onto Earth)…but we do not have an image of what a true ultimate species-wide human realization would look like.

Animals have not had much of a conscious chance to be involved in their perfection as they are. We see the pufferfish in Attempt 1, seemingly without emotions as we define them, yet also seemingly fully realized. Take a look at this design structure. One could say that it is but only millions of years of adapting to the loss of eggs from the ocean current. If that was the case, why did they not just pile up the eggs, or dig a hole like the sea turtle? This design might just be a pleasant vision to the human eye, a fractal pattern based upon current flow…or it could point to a higher order, some sort of aesthetic design by the fish itself, something else. Whatever the case, the pufferfish is in complete symbiosis with its environment and with its “destiny” as a pufferfish…there can be no other way to be a pufferfish than what it already is.

Have we gone from the animal at one with nature attempting in vain to be at one with the cosmos?

We have an infinite amount of information to process before we become complete. It may seem to us that our human life, our human lives are of utmost importance to us, and it is and will be. Our brain functioning surpasses any known animal. Our brain is of the highest order of understanding and wisdom that we have encountered. We are self in “the soft wallow of what it knows, and what it knows it that it will not live forever.” Yet…have we gone from the animal at one with nature attempting in vain to be at one with the cosmos? Our finitude limits our imagination of the infinite. Our humanness limits the God we think we know. Our darkness limits a long glimpse at the Light. Our bodies and brains limit our chance for Freedom. Aurobindo provides paint for our imagination …but what exactly is the complete human species? If we approach the question with the edges of integral maps or through the ultimates (we become pure Light, etc.) do we lose our humanity, our connection with the earth? We say that we are stardust…so is human completion the urge to return to the point of origin? This would mean losing our humanness, our bodies our existence as we know it, our finitude, our mortality.

Can there be a complete human species when the mind is involved?

Can we be a complete human species in this world?

Is my question asking us to reach much to far in our long now thinking to be conceived?

What is your furthest conception of the complete human species?


On the Human Species' Ultimate Potential
On the Human Species' Ultimate Potential
On the Human Species' Ultimate Potential
(douglas duff) #2

Select one or more (or all) questions that you would like to explore further:

      • Can there be a complete human species? Can we imagine our ultimate potential?
      • Can we be a complete human species in this world? Have we gone from the animal at one with nature attempting to be at one with the cosmos?
      • Does the mind interfere with our completion?
      • What is your furthest conception of the complete human species? What will we be collectively in hundreds of years? thousands? millions?
      • Can we imagine the ultimate human individual potential? What would such a perfect, ideal, aspired being be?
      • Do we have the necessary faculties to understand ourselves and the world around us?
      • Do all signs point towards an exploration of mind to better understand our “humanness” or can we learn to fix or separation from nature by improving what we already know?
      • _____? (Add in your own questions after voting)

0 voters


Cosmos Café – Upcoming Events [planning & scheduling]
(Marco V Morelli) #3

A post was merged into an existing topic: On the Human Species Ultimate Potential


(john davis) #4

We already have all of that, Doug, and I dont think it matters much.

My younger brother wants me to study piano. He teaches piano and wrote me about the adagio of the Beethoven Sonata Op.10, which we both love.

He writes about the slow movement, " I describe that as Frankenstein picking the petals of a flower, that’s Beethoven’s masculine femininity. I like that description. I’ve listened to several people play this sonata and there are very different interpretations of the very first bars. Some like to articulate those very quick notes (da duh da duh da dut da dat ) and make them very noticeable and others like to just rip through it (da da da da da da da da dah dut) and short the value of the shorter notes and not making their full time value audible. It’s kind of a trade off between fluidity or momentum and articulation. You probably had to make similar trade offs in reciting Shakespeare’s lines."

I recall my mother announcing to me and my two younger siblings that she had prayed to God to have another baby and that God had answered her prayers. I was eight years old and I remember thinking, " Well then maybe there is a God after all."

I was already, at eight years old, agnostic.

So my little brother was born, and we grew up and found out my brother wasn’t the answer to my mother’s prayer but an " accident." I understand why my mother told us the prayer story. You dont tell children that a having a baby is an " accident."

So I think our notions of development are not very good at capturing any of the serendipity that makes most of our lives possible. I balk at my brother’s invitation to learn a high level skill, like playing the piano, at my age…but then again…this could be one of those odd serendipitous events.

Our cultural evolution is very different from our biological evolution. I think we need to keep these parallel developments between human and non-human not too loose and not too tight. I do love animals and admire them immensely. There is nothing so beautiful as a cat gliding slowly, before it pauses and then leaps with great speed upon that poor little mouse. I then usually turn my eyes away from the violence.

I also doubt that the man, my brother, who made the comments about Beethoven, is just the product of an accident. And whether or not I take up the piano, has nothing to do with biological evolution, or the survival of anything. Lots of people play the piano already and do it really better than I ever will. The same is true of writing poetry or prose. Culture is not biology.

Thanks again, Doug, for your delightful observations and questions.


(douglas duff) #5

Can you foresee in the long, long now, the convergence of these parallel lines? A potential for convergence? This is partly what I wish to explore.

I’ll link an article later, but already we have algorithms that create “better” sonotas. This was decided by listeners voting for which piece of music they preferred to hear (a classical piece created by a classical composer such as Bach along side of the algorithmic creations),which was the most creative, in depth, aesthetically pleasing…the algorithms were chosen more often than not.

This is not what you wrote above, nor do I want for us to jump into technology at the beginning of the conversation, but such changes are upon us.


(Ed Mahood) #6

I’m not completely clear on what the term “animal perfection” means. To me, the very notion of “perfection” implies an endpoint, a point one need not go beyond in any way. Gebser, for example, doesn’t like the term “evolution” at all when it comes to consciousness. I’ve not read Aurobindo, so I don’t know how he may feel about it, but if his thinking is as close to Gebser’s as Gebser appears to have thought, a statement about perfection is not likely to be found. Young has animals incorporated into his process model, which, by his own admission, is ever-changing; therefore no perfection there, at least as I understand the notion.

All of these guys would agree that they are (perhaps) light-years away from any sort of human completion … after all, that’s why they chose very open-ended approaches, I suspect.

I know it’s a very unpopular thought, but I humans are qualitatively different from other living species. I’m not saying better, I am emphasizing different. We humans exhibit capabilities and characteristics that are unique (sometimes only in degree) to animals. And, I would wager that a lot of our “problems”, if that’s the word we want to use, stem from this very fact.

This resonates well with what I’m thinking. We need to be clear on what we mean when we use the word “trauma”, for I often (and notice, not exclusively, nor absolutely) think that there is only “trauma” when humans are involved. For this simple reason, I find your suggestion for this long, slow, thought-experiment quite intriguing. It would bring a lot of these sometimes complicated notions and understandings out into the open where they can be explored more reasonably.

Good suggestions (and already good responses here, excluding my own) and I’m all for exploring and concretizing this further.


(douglas duff) #7

Not completely sure what I mean as well. A species completion might be closer, or reaching our true potential in the ultimate sense. I see perfection as the integral plateau and the knowledge tapestry idea I loosely presented during modeling sessions. We have the ingredients for something more “wholesome”, a healthier human. This impossible topic on top of my minimal “mind to speech” processing ability will leave us a bit confused. But please keep questioning, and maybe the articulation will appear.


(Ed Mahood) #8

This is very helpful … gives me a better idea at what you’re driving at.

It’s not easy to put into words some of the imaginings we find impinging on our mental landscapes. We (all) need to keep clarity in mind, but we also have to “get the idea out there” before it fades completely. These brief back-and-forths, I believe, raise the potential that we’ll get across what we actually intend.

As Yogi Berra once remarked, “How do I know what I mean till I’ve heard what I had to say?”


(T J Williams) #9

Funnily enough, I just finished a book I picked up at one of those dollar-a-book sales at the local library. Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature was written by Mary Midgley in 1978. She attacks what she sees as common misconceptions of the distinction(s) between the animal and the human (starting with the notion of a single simple one). She tells a story of developing life on planet Earth in which each species accumulated the various “toolkits” which best enhanced survival. Similarities in certain types of critical gesture or expression (e.g., conveying a sense of danger, asserting dominance at mealtime) among social animals are not a surprise where the broad environmental conditioning, so to speak, is the same.
In Chapter 12 “Why We Need a Culture” she examines why our cultural evolution is linked to our biological evolution, seeing that instinct and habit become ritual and, in man, symbol and language.
Alas, like a good late 20th century rationalist, she avoids “consciousness” like the plague so while she is good at debunking the lines other draw she leaves herself uncertain means to draw her own.

Still, there are a few gems among the concluding remarks, which I think stand even if written in the time of the TRS-80:
“Emotional stability, a solid, continuous character, is necessary to survival. It is quite as necessary as technology, and indeed technology itself depends on it.” (p. 280)
“Computers are not rational, they are stupid things. They do not know what matters; they are only consistent.” (p. 281)


(john davis) #10

I like Yuja Wang very much. My brother, who is a musician, thinks her dress vulgarizes the music. He also mentions sadly that piano sells are down. And this is a trend. The Metropolitan Opera is probably going under, too. But who needs all of that when we have the algorithm spin-meisters to entertain us !

I like her dress and her style. Style is a synonym for spirit. Like pornography, it is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

One man’s style is another man’s vulgarity. If this is vulgarity give me vulgarity!

And when your algorithm can write a sonnet better than Shakespeare or a novel better than Tolstoy please send me that link!


(john davis) #11

I just started Midgley’s Science and Poetry where she takes up that topic. Here is a quote I like, page 12-

" The first person point of view is then not a myth ( as the behaviorists said) but is, however regrettably, a natural fact like any other and perhaps an important one. The problem then arises: how can we fit it into conceptual schemes that were never meant to accommodate it? How are we to talk about ourselves as subjects? How can we talk about first-and third aspects of ourselves? What kind of beings-as a whole-do we turn out to be?"

Here is a brief clip in which she slams Dawkins, and his line of propaganda. She is a formidable lady, a voice worth listening to.


(T J Williams) #12

In the end, art is as much in the appreciation as in the creation. Show me an algorithm that can listen to a Chopin waltz (or a Shakespeare play or a vignette from one John Davis) and be moved

Edit: @johnnydavis54: When was this Midgley interview? I am glad to see it indeed, because there are points in Beast and Man where she seemed to be playing on the borders of the conclusions she argues here.


(Geoffrey Edwards) #13

Concerning « perfection » and « ultimate », I thing we are struggling to find open-ended « truths », so truths that are themselves somewhat ambiguous, rather than anything « fixed », even as a goal or target. We don’t want, maybe, an end-point so much as an « end-trajectory »? And maybe the end-trajectory is itself chaotic rather than ordered?

Regarding « trauma » in animals. Interesting idea. Although when I look at my friend’s dog, who is getting old now, she experienced what I would be hard put to refer to as anything else than trauma when, as a puppy, her leg was crushed by a car - I spent hours with my friend being present for her agony, and helping her slowly heal over the following months. And her behaviour today has echoes of that event… How is that not trauma? Also, the idea of trauma is related to the idea of resiliency, and different animals, like humans, experience different degrees of resiliency, when faced with difficult situations.

Regarding technology : I have said this before. I am highly skeptical of this idea that we are headed for a « singularity » in terms of our relationship with machines. The argument is predicated on the idea that machines will be able to create novelty in ways similar to humans. That humans are basically « algorithmic ». I think this is a based on an illusory understanding of both machines and humans. I think algorithms will get us a simulcrum of human functioning, a kind of parody, but they will not do the job being claimed. That said, I do think whatever parody we are headed for will be transformative nonetheless, which is why I take these arguments seriously…


(T J Williams) #14

This bears repeating. Often.


(john davis) #15

The interview was May 2014. the book I quoted from is 2002. She is in her nineties and sharp as a tack. I would not want to debate her if I were Dawkins.


(douglas duff) #16

From You’d never know it wasn’t Bach (or even human):

Viewed this way, programs like Kulitta are a help to human musicians, not a threat. “They’re another tool in the toolbox,” Quick says. “People can use this to do what they already were doing, but better.”

Please note, these are not “my” algorithms, they are not necessarily my babies…but I love the idea that they can enhance my life. Again, this thread made a loose disclaimer that this needn’t go in the direction of AI/technology (as it most inevitably would, given our place in the present world), but for the sake of the current discussion…technology is making (some of) our lives better, is making (some of) our moments easier, less painful. As @achronon demonstrated to the Biblically illiterate amongst us, there is more than meets the eye than a surface understanding of the Bible. One can say that Shakespeare is irrelevant to current living, flagging themselves as having only a surface understanding of Shakespeare. We do not need an algorithm to create new Shakespeare, but to enhance our supposed current void of masterpieces…must we see ourselves as that limited that we cannot create something new? Something that would be viewed as a masterpiece of human achievement in the arts, the religious realm? Do we need a universal human species Bible? Sure all of the answers to life can be found in the first word of Genesis, or in a Hamlet monologue…but who is listening? Seriously, who is willing to listen to what has been said? Is it going to take an Oprah vs Trump to “awaken” the world?
Are we all just archivists here, collecting and collecting and sorting and buying obscure used books, foraging for online orts, seeking out the like minded underground reader? I am still attempting to find a place to discuss my understanding of Sloterdijk’s Rules for the Human Zoo (which has no controversial statements, BTW, just misunderstandings)…we are the saturated savage, taking a step away from the noble savage. As an individual, I can easily disagree, stating that I am more noble because of my saturation. As an earthly citizen, the saturated fats consumed as a whole will be the global body’s demise. My vote goes to Oprah, but hologram Lincoln Luther King really has the real me, the real us in mind…that’s because we all control the hologram to a certain extent. My vote goes to electing our overlooked elder “shepherds” like Midgley…come to think of it, advocating for elder rights might be what saves us. They have been overlooked in the whole discrimination debate, other than maybe abuses in nursing homes… I should have stopped writing a long time ago…


(douglas duff) #17

Ha! this post goes out to the self-referential @achronon, often referencing his own posts before others respond! Thanks for giving me the okay to do so here :expressionless:

Just wish to add that maybe this is where I’d like the discussion to go, once we have a decent image of what a fully realized individual and a fully realized species might be. This human enlightenment project is something that must involve all of us. Once we can envision the furthest reaches of human ideal potential, the project can better begin.

We can definitely say that it’s going to be messy!


(john davis) #18

But can they enhance your life? Or do the people who have come up with algorithms sell you on the idea that they can enhance your life?

At one time, I believed Valium could enhance my life, too, and I found out the hard way that it can’t. Valium is not a long term strategy for relieving anxiety. It alters mood but at a high cost. It induces a dissociated state, a false calm, but it actually fucks up the brain. When I withdrew from the small dose after a year of taking it I was flooded by horrific nightmares. Then, I started to deal with my life conditions in a productive way.

A friend of mine, who had a fatal illness, suffering from depression, was on psychoactive meds and I asked him if they helped. He said, " No." The only thing the meds did was stop him from crying. They blocked his capacity for expressing grief. But the grief do not go away.

So is the blocking of a natural response such as tears when you have a terminal illness such a good idea? The depression is still there, the symptom has been dampened.

One size does not fit all and that is why I find the search for the ultimate algorithm is analogous to popping a pill for what ails you so that you can get back into the rat race. This is a notion, I believe, that is driven by extreme cognitive constipation.

Now algorithms and medications for depressions are not all bad, but they are not going to cure what ails us. It is also perhaps a question of aesthetics.

I dont believe we should reject depression or anxiety and reduce them to unproductive states that need to be corrected by an external adjustment to end the heart ache and the natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

The search for the ultimate algorithm is not a new idea, it is actually coming out of an old and very bad philosophical position called positivism. John Watson, the behaviorist, claimed that it was bad for parents to hug and kiss their children because it wasn’t ‘objective’. He speculated that it would be more ‘scientific’ if parents were not allowed to raise their children.

I believe we can alleviate all kinds of stresses by being more adept at refining our consciousness through a more balanced and nuanced tuning into the nature- mind dynamic.

Thanks again, Doug, for bringing our attention to these complex issues so that we can hold our differences lightly.


(douglas duff) #19

Taking note of Tristan Harris’ warnings, I feel I am in complete control, but take note of the feeling. I mentioned having no television above; I also have only a phone connection, no home internet, thus a limited exposure to internet life…my data plan has me limiting myself to a few podcasts, this website, a select few Facebook discussion groups. This site is the only notification I receive. I check email in my own free time.

My first career oriented job was working at a troubled youth wilderness camp, an alternative to juvenile detention. This particular camp was private, differing from the public camps scattered about a few of the Southern states. The children came from wealthy families, ranging from the child that happened to sneak out of the house once and got caught to the individuals that basically partied each night with heavy drinking and heavier drugs. Their parents ranged from the drone parenting style watching their every step to the non-existent parents who hugged their children with cash and disappeared.
One teen was a part of the World of Warcraft online life. This game was his life. When he first arrived, he had major withdrawal, hallucinating, thinking he was within the game, unable to realize where he was. Once he did, his true issues started to arise. We were baffled at this guy. Eventually he came around, but the withdrawal from anything technological was a powerful beast. This was ten years ago. I can only imagine some of the issues arising with our current algorithmic generation.


(Ed Mahood) #20

As @johnnydavis54 notes, she is a formidable lady, and I’m sure Dawkins would think more than twice about debating her publicly. She has a very finely tune bullshit detector, and isn’t afraid to use it.

I got to Midgley through Tallis, who is one of those rationalist/materialists who at least acknowledge that, as messy as it is, there is no sense denying consciousness, as it’s an elephant in the room that needs addressing. Neither she nor he may like to come right out and say what it is, but their ruminations do open up lines of thought that are worth reflecting upon in their own right, but also in relationship to everything else we’ve been reading and talking about.