Stalking The Wild Multihumanism

Alternate (better) title: Becoming (multi)Human (thanks to Mark Frazier)

fractal hand 480px × 408px

Perhaps the most momentous biological innovation next to the origin of life itself was when single-celled organisms evolved into multicellular ones. What were the specific survival advantages that promoted that transition? What were the small steps involved?

Per Wikipedia:

There are various mechanisms by which multicellularity could have evolved.

One hypothesis is that a group of function-specific cells aggregated into a slug-like mass called a grex, which moved as a multicellular unit. This is essentially what slime molds do. Another hypothesis is that a primitive cell underwent nucleus division, thereby becoming a syncytium. A membrane would then form around each nucleus (and the cellular space and organelles occupied in the space), thereby resulting in a group of connected cells in one organism (this mechanism is observable in Drosophila). A third hypothesis is that, as a unicellular organism divided, the daughter cells failed to separate, resulting in a conglomeration of identical cells in one organism, which could later develop specialized tissues. This is what plant and animal embryos do as well as colonial choanoflagellates.[6][7]   (Wikipedia/multicellular_organism)

In that context I’d like to discuss another possible phase-shift in the evolution of living systems that might be equally momentous– the multi-multicellular organism, and more specifically the multihuman organism or multihumanism. Theoretically, the multihuman organism is to the single-human organism as the multicellular organism is to the single-celled organism.

What would a multihumanism look like? How might it come about?

What it isn’t:

  1. It is not sociality or eusociality, although that is most certainly a prerequisite. Social structures or institutions like marriage, family, community, tribes, geopolitical states, religions, etc. are probably necessary precursors to multiorganism; but they are not it. Certain religious cults (YUCK!) may be as far as sociality alone can take us towards multihumanism. Hopefully those are no more than evolutionary false starts or dead ends.
  2.  It is not asymmetric inclusion. Most multicellular organisms are hosts to a microbiome of other organisms that are typically of lower phylogenetic types–viruses, bacteria, and even multicellular parasites.

Plagiomnium affine, Laminazellen, Rostock

A multiorganism is a union of multiple organisms of the same or comparable type at a level that is more profound and stable than sociality alone. A multiorganism also reproduces in kind.

Consider the slime molds. Their properties and behavior seem to fluctuate between that of a social colony of single-celled organisms and a true multicellular organism. Highly eusocial insects (ants, bees, etc.) seem to approach or border on being multiorganisms.

So, again, what might a multiorganism of humans or a human multiorganism — a multihumanism — look like?

Hopefully not like “The Human Centipede.”

Credit: South Park

Credit: South Park

After all, even the cells in our bodies are not “stitched” together that rigidly. There is a wide range between extremes of structural rigidity or solidity, and structural flexibility or fluidity, in organisms. Existing examples of semi-multiorganism such as slime molds or ant colonies are very fluid in their physical structure. A multihumanism might be even more so, and yet its structure or configuration would be more spatially, functionally, and temporally coherent and stable than anything produced by sociality alone and it would have the ability to reproduce itself in kind.

Nor should it be like the Borg (Star Trek).

Captain Picard as Locutus. “Resistance is futile–you will be assimilated.”

Like the Human Centipede, the Borg is another example of a very, very bad multihumanism design. The somewhat libertarian creators of Star Trek viewed all forms of collectivism (except perhaps the United Federation of Planets) with extreme skepticism.  So should we all as far as implementation details are concerned, but our skepticism should be of the scientific, open-minded type –not  the closed-minded reactionary type.

Any proposal or plan for becoming (multi)human constitutes an extraordinary hypotheses and as such demands extraordinary proof of safety, efficacy, and general utility. At the very least we need approval from The Consumer Report, the Underwriters Laboratory, and a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

No matter what else we might imagine or suppose, things like love, empathy, compassion, etc. are essential for a multihumanism that will be palatable to its human constituents and consistent with their best interests.

The self-actualization and well-being of a multihumanism should not come at the cost of corresponding needs of the individual constituents. There must be a net increase in happiness and well-being.

Any thoughts?

Poor Richard

[This essay is brought to you by coffee + Napoleon brandy]

Related PRA 2.0 Posts:

The Open Internet and Its Enemies

English: A stereotypical caricature of a villa...

Internet Freedom? Yes, of course…(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Can we in fact proceed or accept the outcome of any MS [multistakeholder governance] process without a very close re-examination and structuring of those processes; that is, to develop a means for providing appropriate safeguards against contamination, subversion, distortion or interest capture by or on behalf of one or another of the significant players whose interests in Internet development may be quite the opposite of the open, inclusive, transparent Internet that is the evident goal for most of those particularly from Civil Society who espouse MSism so passionately?”

The Open Internet Society and Its Enemies: Can Multistakeholderism Survive “Information Dominance”? | Gurstein’s Community Informatics.

 

The Internet Society, one of the active players in the debate on Internet governance, says this:

Each year, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) provides all stakeholders a unique opportunity to discuss openly critical emerging Internet-related issues.

This year’s overarching IGF theme is: “Building Bridges” – Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development”

As part of its engagement at the IGF, the Internet Society strongly supports the fundamentals of the open and sustainable Internet:

-Open Global standards for unleashed innovation;
-Open to Everyone: a freedom-enhancer for every Internet user;
-Open for Business and Economic progress;
-Open and Multistakeholder governance for transparent inclusion.

That sounds so very nice, vague, and naive (or maybe disingenuous). The bottom line: regardless of internet governance institutions, structures, or players we need to identify bad actors and deal with them appropriately.

Wikipedia says of multistakeholder governance:

“Multistakeholderism is a framework and means of engagement, it is not a means of legitimization. Legitimization comes from people, from work with and among people.”

So how do we identify good faith (bona fides) and bad faith (mala fides)?

One thing that comes to mind is “profiling” the way the FBI profiles serial killers on TV, that is, looking for behavior patterns that correlate with other bad actors in the past.

However we do it, we need definitions and tests of good faith and bad faith with some kind of empirical metrics.

BTW I think the US government fails all conceivable tests of good faith and should be put in the penalty box indefinitely.

PR

GOP 2014: EFF SHIT UP FOR FREEDOM

Here’s a bumper sticker graphic courtesy of Elan Wilson:

Fuck Shit Up for Freedom - by Elan Wilson

If you have other bumper sticker ideas, either textual or graphical,  feel free to post in comments.

PR

Rage against the algorithms | mathbabe

“[A]lgorithms are becoming ever more important in society, for everything from search engine personalizationdiscriminationdefamation, and censorship online, to how teachers are evaluated, how markets work, how political campaigns are run, and even how something like immigration is policed. Algorithms, driven by vast troves of data, are the new power brokers in society, both in the corporate world as well as in government.

“They have biases like the rest of us. And they make mistakes. But they’re opaque, hiding their secrets behind layers of complexity. How can we deal with the power that algorithms may exert on us? How can we better understand where they might be wronging us? [...]

“Algorithms are essentially black boxes, exposing an input and output without betraying any of their inner organs. You can’t see what’s going on inside directly, but if you vary the inputs in enough different ways and pay close attention to the outputs, you can start piecing together some likeness for how the algorithm transforms each input into an output. The black box starts to divulge some secrets.”

More… via Guest post: Rage against the algorithms | mathbabe.

Shutdown at the OK Corral

“The most accurate description of the Federal shutdown is an attempted corporate veto of American democracy. We must act accordingly. ” (occupynetwork.com)

I’d call it an attempted coup d’état.

Responding to David Brin‘s Government Shutdown or Showdown?:

“…one has to wonder about the author’s core assumption, that all of the right wing’s oligarchs want the United States to thrive.”

I doubt there is much nationalist sentiment in the upper rooms of the now globalized plutocracy. In fact, I imagine that a brutal punishment of the uppity US middle class in particular and the working classes of the world in general is pretty high on the agenda.

Despite the fact that a largely PR-driven model of subjugation-exploitation might be far more efficient and profitable, I imagine a deep emotional desire, perhaps fairly unconscious, on the part of the power-mad to wage a zero-sum, scorched-earth campaign against democracy. I think they perceive liberal democracy and self-governance as a far greater existential threat than climate change or the limits to growth in general. Besides, I think they see massive population reduction (survival of the richest) as a good solution to the latter. When the rich own nearly all the assets on earth they won’t need teeming masses to depress labor costs. By then they wont need much labor, period. Large populations will just be in the way, and they will represent the most clear and present danger to the elites.

Brin talks about the culture war as phase three of the US Civil War but it seems much bigger than that. Its a war on humanity. And Brin talks about a war on science but that’s only part of a larger war: a war on Reason. Not only self-government but Reason itself might vanish from the face of the earth for a very long time if psychopaths have their way.

GOP 2014: “FUCK SHIT UP FOR FREEDOM!”

Poor Richard

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Political economist Frederic Bastiat, The Law [1850]

The natural history of knowledge

Natural History

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commenting on:

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor …

Does your dualism lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?
Unblock your inquiry with a dose of Peirce’s Elixir Triadic❢

Inquiry Driven Systems : Are There Apps For That?

In which Jon Awbrey raises the subject of the “Relationship between emergent-evolved systems and engineered systems.”

That points toward what I like to call the “natural history” of cognition, inquiry, logic, mathematics, language, etc. We might learn things from the natural, sequential development of such faculties and systems that could be either prescriptive or proscriptive for modern engineering practice.

I like looking for the earliest and simplest instances of things. Unfortunately the early natural history of most things is largely unknown. Take the evolution of the triangle or the number three in human cognition, for example. But even in the absence of historical data we might gain something from thought experiments or inferences about what the evolutionary sequence might have been in the light of things we do know about the human bio-computer.

Incidentally, thinking about threes and triangles, the basic transistor (perhaps a fairly close man-made analogue of a primitive neuron or a even a bit of DNA) that we now “print” with exotic nano-particle ink is a thing with a tripartite configuration. I guess such three-part structure actually applies to most switches, many instances of which greatly predate biology.

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Structure of a section of DNA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And commenting on a related post on Jon’s blog, Inquiry into Inquiry, Definition and Determination : 10 :

“Suffice it to say that a sign endeavors to represent, in part at least, an Object, which is therefore in a sense the cause, or determinant, of the sign even if the sign represents its object falsely.” — Charles S. Peirce

Typically symbols or signs are objects of higher compression (or lower resolution or complexity) than the objects they represent, but in some cases the reverse may be true.

I think of knowledge as consisting of networks of associations. If each association has a probability and each network has a geometry, then the structure of knowledge isn’t much different from the structure of physical stuff. Perhaps we will find a sort of quantum mechanics or geometrodynamics of knowledge.

Presumably the brain uses a wide variety of relatively specialized algorithms and heuristics (evolved and learned) depending on the kinds of signs, objects or data types and structures involved in a task.

fractal Von_Koch_curve

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How useful Is fractal geometry for representing recursive networks of objects-associations?

A mirror of silver and glass makes no critical analysis of what it reflects, but we think that few (if any) reflections are perfect. When light reflected from objects in our field of vision enters the eye a series of additional reflections are created by our optical and visual systems. The eye and brain apply adaptive-corrective algorithms all along the way. Among these are associations with previously recorded and computed objects, signs, rules, etc.that provide context and some critical analysis — a comprehensive (in some degree) grasp. Many “leaps and grasps” have occurred before we are consciously aware of an image at all.

What we know or comprehend about something is largely (wholly?) based on comparisons and contrasts (positive and negative associations) with other stuff we already know. Following the development of knowledge backwards to its origins, the original vestige of prior knowledge presumably comes somehow from the DNA and possibly other materials of the fertilized embryonic germ cell and this is inherited by the first neuroblasts that go on to form the brain.

Contrasts and comparisons (associations) are fundamental operations of the biochemical machines that run up and down the DNA chains making DNA repairs, copying it, building proteins based on it, etc. At the biochemical level reflections (associations) typically come in the form of positively or negatively matching shapes and electromagnetic charges.

I think we agree that the geometry of the basic unit of association is triadic. I tend to think of it most often in terms of two nodes and a connecting line, the basic unit of a network; rather than as a triangle. A triangle, it seems, has more than three parts (3 sides + 3 vertices + 3 angles + an enclosed area = 10 parts — at least!).

Poor Richard

Adam Smith on taxes, inequality of riches, regulating banks

adam smith on taxes“The subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state ….[As Henry Home (Lord Kames) has written, a goal of taxation should be to] ‘remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich.’” — Adam Smith

“Though the principles of the banking trade may appear somewhat abstruse, the practice is capable of being reduced to strict rules. To depart upon any occasion from those rules, in consequence of some flattering speculation of extraordinary gain, is almost always extremely dangerous and frequently fatal to the banking company which attempts it.” — Adam Smith

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