Monday, October 06, 2003


As time goes on, and things develop further, I am constantly struck by the perversity and short-sightedness of human cultural design. More and more, I am of the opinion that humans actually lie beneath the critereon of sapient beings. The level that unthinking reaction and habit tend to affect all levels of human endeavor seems to bespeak of a mental design more opportunistic than exploratory, and more exploitative than creative.

The fault is internal to humans, I must assume. There are enough theoretical societies and structures without the horrid irregularities around us that I must hope at least one of them is viable, minus the strange predilectations we have as humans towards social situations.

Mental landscapes are so poorly integrated that one often finds mutually contradictory goals held within the same person, and a single course of action can have wildly divergent inspirations and content amongst a simple population of supposed co-operatives. The simple amount of contradictory actions people take despite avowed beliefs or goals makes one reconsider whether or not we're accurately classified as individuals at all.

I find the most galling evidence within myself, as the exemplar of humanity most amenable to examination. My attempts to resolve the inconsistencies have met with failure. My attempt to mitigate them remains a mixed success. The ultimate irony may lie within the particular opportunistic nature of evolution. Intelligence is an advantage, to a genotype. But it remains a genotype first, and intelligence second. Did any short steps towards rationality and clarity die quick unreproductive deaths during the rapid rise of intelligence in the hominid line? We may be leashed 'intentionally' inasmuch as such a term can apply to a blind process. Intelligence is all well and good, the evolutionary record might say. But when it threatens productivity within a genotype, it won't last long. So the intelligences that outcompeted the others are leashed, as it were, to impulses and desires that ensure success. That turn intelligence into a tool of the underlying goals.

Such things are badly integrated, blind impulse and instinct being poor doorwardens for intellect. We happily continue having sex, with contraceptions in place. We retain our lust for social status, when such prizes no longer guarentee simply best selection in mates and food, but more subtle authorities and responsibilities. The impulses remain, and do provide for portions of what we like to call our personalities. But often they remain independent of our thoughts and goals. We ascribe great mystery to them, because they must indeed be powerful to move us so greatly. This is the largest reason for over-estimation of the role of 'emotions' and irrational processes.

In an interesting way, such emotions and drives and instincts can be thought of as group characteristics. They are the overarching similarities that keep us so similar to each other. They are better understood as environmental variables, however, seperate from the private, learned and grown portions of ourselves that makes us unique. Everyone has emotions, and they all react largely the same way, when they can be isolated. More interesting and individual are those opinions, dreams, and desires most removed from the common human experience. The real part of the person, you might say. The part that wasn't built in by blind chance and heredity, right?

No. This isn't what I think. But it's an easy, and strangely romantic way of looking at things. There is no easy way to seperate any portion of the human mental landscape, no pure intellect chained to the meat and evolutionary baggage of our forefathers. But it's a viewpoint that shows up distressingly often in the world of transhumanists, intellectuals, and navel-gazers of the new scientific bent. It's a simplistic solution that appeals greatly to those who wish to transcend personal weakness and hardship by 'unlinking' some percieved dead weight. The truth is never that easy. You can't have a human minus his hormones and have a human unchanged. You are left with a dead human. Nonfunction. There is no simple essence to intelligence. We (personally) are our fears and eyes, and legs and limbic reactions. There can't be a separations that way. Growing up isn't that easy.

No comments: