Growth and Decay of Civilisation (#1221)

Related Documents:
The First Cambrian Explosion
The Second Cambrian Explosion
(#1215) Higher Level Evolution - Second Cambrian Explosion
(#1228) Informal/Formal Structures and Organic/Mechanistic Perspectives
(#1229) Transitional Phases are Unbalanced - with awareness we may participate
(#1250) Civilizational cycles and the direction of the process
(#1258) Approaching the future
(#1279) Underlying Context for the Discussion on Civilisation
(#1318) Sustainability and Balance of Power
Also see other excerpts from my discussions with the Society for Scientific Exploration.

The whole phenomenon that people call 'civilisation' has been the growth of the collective organism, which started from our excess intelligence and gave rise to all kinds of technologies such as language, ritual, beaurocracy, hierarchical social structures and so on. These technological advancements have been building atop each other and accelerating - with recent developments such as engines, electricity, mass media, the internet, and other such things. The growth of technology seems to me to be an aspect of the growth of the stucture of the collective organism, i.e. it mediates and facilitates the way that we cells come together and interact. Thus different technologies give rise to different organisational principles leading to subtly or radically different kinds of collective organisms. E.g. compare a tribe, a corporation and a nation. Or perhaps a facist dictatorship and a liberal democracy, the different organsiational 'technologies' produce very different higher level systems.

In our own bodies only roughly 30% of the cells are actually human, the rest are all kinds of different cellular life forms with which we symbiotically depend, and there are also all kinds of other material structures such as calcium deposits forming teeth and bones and so on. In the collective organism that we are forming, this is all occuring at a higher (more complex) level - humans are far more complex and self aware than cells and we consume and metabolise forests and mineral deposits differently to how cells consume food. So the particulars will be very different but the underlying general principles seem related and can be comprehended via system theory (complexity theory, cybernetics, etc).

Hence your point that technology has perhaps taken oven is a very relevant point - at what point do the individual cells begin to lose effective control over the collective and at what point and by what mechanism does the collective begin to assume control of itself. I call this process 'individuation' or the process where the collective becomes an individual in its own right, with its own perspective, agenda, needs, fears, desires, and so on. This is related to the formation of the 'ego' in ourselves and governments are very much like social egos, they can be prone to thinking "I am the nation" just as our egos think "I am the body". We already see to a great extent that the techological structures of beaurocracy, laws, governments and so on have usurped much of our individual power and have begun to pursue their own agendas. It is not just technology such as the internet that is involved but organisational technologies of all kinds. Although the internet is a perfect nervous system for the collective organism and will come to play a very important role in the future.

In regards to the idea of the "machine stopping", that would be death for the collective organism and also death for most of the dependent individuals (cells) who have become totally dependent. But still many cells will survive and scatter, e.g. hair and nail cells continue to grow for a time after death and many of the assorted cells throughout our bodies do not necessarily die, they just scatter as the overarching organisational structure breaks down. They return into the earth and continue to metabolise the rotting corpse and anything else that they can find. This brings to mind many post-apocalyptic plotlines where people are scattered in small tribes and surviving by breaking down and re-assimlating the shattered corpse of a previous civilisation. The Australian series of movies "Mad Max" comes to mind but there are many other stories of this kind.

We, as a civilsation are not yet near the level of intergrated dependence that exists in an organism but we are rapidly heading in that direction, indeed accelerating that way. Hence we are becoming extremely dependent, especially in certain pockets of certain societies, such as vast modern western cities. But here where I am currently traveling, in India, there is still a stong grasp of the traditional way of life and for many people here there is such grinding poverty they have no access to most of the benefits of "the machine" right now anyway and must fend for themselves on a daily, individual level. If the machine broke down the cities would die but many individuals would scatter and revert to the old ways.

But I don't think we are headed for a major collective die off anytime soon, things won't be easy, its still a jungle but on a higher level. However there are positive signs of a major revolutionary paradigm shift that will open up all kinds of new posibilities. I hope this isn't just wishfull thinking, but I feel that we are destined for more than just sweltering in the dying corpse of human civilisation. I think we have yet to even be able to begin to imagine to potential of this being that we are creating out of ourselves. Just as a cell cannot imagine what it is like to be human and cannot conceive of the awareness, wisdom and power that we possess, so too we cannot comprehend this collective being on its own level. But I trust that the innate wisdom and goodness in our own hearts and minds will permeate this collective being enough so that it has the inner resources to pull itself through the coming transformative trials that it faces.