Culture into Evolution

I have been going through the notes that I made in the three months prior to Lift07 while giving it some thought to what had inspired me to look into knowledge ownership from a logical point of view beyond what I already knew about it. Being in Rome recently and facing a strong differential culture current that can be felt just in the air that one breathes, and discussing the use of knowledge and parenting with friends threw in a few new questions into the equation.

If culture is the cohesive expression of human behaviour, and as Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi puts it in his seminal book Flow, culture is also the set of defensive constructions against chaos designed to reduce the impact of randomness on experience. That having been said, then one can conclude that culture is an adaptive response to complexity. Thus, if complexity is increasing, and we are led to think that complexity is increasing with increased population and technology densities, then culture is the continued adaptation to this progression that contrary to what rational man would like to think, is indeed random, discontinuous, and unpredictable. What is perhaps misguiding and perplexing is that this evolution gives us the semblance of continuity and linearity, and does lead many to linear extrapolations where none are possible.

Those so inclined would like to put all of this in nice mathematical models and start predicting the consequences of it. For all my profound admiration and fascination for that other more formal and abstract language of ours, mathematics, I caution that mathematics may be too limited for the task of long range prediction. Mathematics is a language that confines us, and does not unbind the confines of our reality. In my view there is one universal characteristic to language and that it can be both used to limit or expand reality. That is to say that this characteristic has a dual nature that in itself appears paradoxical at first sighting.

I am at best a very mediocre student of history, however I have always been fascinated by it as it has always evidenced some of the greatest peculiarities in human behaviour that clearly point to man’s lack of rationale. In itself this statement is a paradox. To claim that man has behaved in the absence of rationale throughout history is tantamount to claim that man has been behaving contrary to its believes. After all, when one tries to be rational, what is it that serves as a guideline in the rationalization? If That is so, and for the sake of argument let us consider that it is so for a while, how would you balance this paradox?

Taking another quantum leap, let me ask what is the role of games in culture?

I can also phrase the question in another domain: In what areas of human development is the next evolutionary step going to take place?

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2 thoughts on “Culture into Evolution”

  1. I’ve always liked the metaphor of thermodynamics for life. It’s been a long time since I studied thermo (or biochemistry) but I believe to make DNA or to cool a room with air conditioning creates more entropy in the universe. Another way of seeing it, human existence is a pocket of order that requires entropy to make.

  2. Thermodynamically speaking that is indeed true. Life is order, and it requires energy input. It is a good line of thought, and I have never quite given it much consideration in terms of what that might mean at the bigger picture level.

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