For Your Approval

Jeff Kassel jeffak at aimnet.com
Mon Jun 9 05:49:06 EST 1997


Title:  Did we want to solve the problem or fix it?

1.  The Necessities of Life

Organism + Environment + Entropy = Life Process

Entropy is acting by having a dual effect here, pushing death and
priming Evolution (see section #2).
 
Take away the Organism and there is no Life Process.

Take away the Environment and there is no Life Process (the Organism
dies).

Take away the Entropy and there’s 
.

Generalizing: 
An Environment is a subset of the Universe.  In the Universe, Entropy is
acting with the same basic dual effect, taking apart matter/energy, then
rearranging it, over and over again.

Universe + Entropy = Complexity
Examples:  Everything?

Take away the Entropy and there’s no Complexity.  Would that be a black
hole with all the mass and energy of the universe?  If Entropy then
acted, would there be a Big Bang?  This train of thought yields more
interesting possibilities. I’ll stop now, because that really isn’t my
biggest interest here.  

We’ve been neglectful of Entropy.  I’ve heard Entropy called Time’s
arrow.  If you’re going to use analogies, I think it would be better to
consider Time as Entropy’s Reference Gauge.


2.  The Organism

The basic functional components of an organism:

a.  Structure and mechanism that keep the substance of the Organism
separate from the Environment, i.e. fortifying it against Entropy’s
effects.

b.  Simultaneously with component a., structure and function that
acquire replenishing energy and matter from the Environment.

c.  A genetic (information) system, to allow the Organism to near
faithfully reproduce these structures and mechanisms and also to serve
as the site of mutation, priming the process of Evolution by Natural
Selection.  

    Certain more complex organisms have a secondary system of
information storage and processing, a brain.  For certain of the most
complex Organisms, the brain appears to have a subset that serves to
near faithfully reproduce learned behaviors and also serves as the site
of  random rearrangements of (memories and instincts), allowing
Abstraction (among other behaviors) to occur.

3.  Abstraction 

Information (as memories and instincts) + Entropy (in the role of the
rearranger, now at the neuron/synapse level) = Novel thoughts (as
Abstraction)

Abstractions that are used to create new concrete things are inventions,
abstractions that haven’t been used  this way but do still serve a
purpose are beliefs. 

4.  A New Abstraction

Now, to our species.  I believe, for some reason, possibly relating to a
heightened level of Separation Anxiety resulting from having such a
plastic brain, one? of us, maybe struggling with a need for identity or
self, came up with a set of abstractions along the lines of "I am alive
and aware and in this universe all around me and (looking at it from
here) at its center, very special, even immortal".  Such a set of
abstractions would have felt really good, believing in them answered a
great need.  Staying with the Separation Anxiety notion, such a set
abstractions, as strong beliefs, might have given this person the
courage and the wherewithal to leave home, to explore, to migrate.  

Complex languages, even ancient ones, the way they are structured, are
very easy ways of sharing abstractions with other humans.  This
particular set of abstractions could have then been shared by word of
mouth, taught to children, made routine.  I believe the different
abstractions of this set persist as beliefs today,  though the set’s
been broken up a bit.  I believe that one of these abstractions
continues as a belief in most of us, serving the same need as before,
though learned to different degrees in different individuals.

5.  Please Follow Close

The one abstraction still widely held?  I think it’s "I am alive".  The
trouble is, it is an abstraction with no basis in reality (please refer
back to section #1).  Speaking for myself, I now believe that I am not
alive, I am not in possession of life.  "I am alive" is mistaking the
part for the whole.  It’s saying "I, the Organism, all by myself, am
Life.  "I am alive" neglects the environment part of life.  It neglects
the entropy part of life.

Is this just a matter of semantics?  I don’t think so, the "I am alive"
abstraction I’ve spoken of is referring to functionality.  Life is
really a process involving three basic parts.  

Sorry, I couldn’t resist this one:  Douglas, you weren’t quite in focus
yet, it wasn’t "42" you were thinking about, it was "fortitude". 

The trouble is, while we’re learning to believe that we’re trying to
grow up to become this autonomous being, every instinct that has evolved
is trying to keep track of the environment, and a certain region of the
brain is trying to keep track of entropy (though it’s actually checking
the reference gauge we call "Time", tracked by our Biological Clock - I
almost forgot about it myself!).  (Remember section #1.)

That’s going to cause quite a lot of conflict in our brains, as our
learnings largely ignore the environment and entropy, while our
genetically programmed brain functioning is trying to monitor the rather
precarious balance called Life.

6.  Now, Try This  Instead

When you start to think about the implications, you should recognize one
product of the conflict:  Civilization.

When you start to think about the implications, you might worry that
removal of the conflict will signal the end of all the good things that
Civilization has brought.  There’s no reason to, as long as we continue
to record and teach their particulars with language.  

The implications are staggering.

When you start to think about the implications, you might worry that
removal of the conflict will leave us as relatively dull apepeople
again.  There’s no reason to, we may not have a free will, but we sure
are unpredictable, even to ourselves
 and that’s not going to be lost,
as long as we keep sharing our abstractions.

I think we need to start teaching our children ecology and evolution,
not autonomy.  We need to continue to teach them to express themselves,
to abstract.

Penny D. Tansy, PhD.



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