How Civilization has Put Itself in Peril, The Dumbing Down of Humanity and Refreshing Human Intelligence to Save Ourselves
People need to use more of their intelligence a lot better if we are to avoid a civilization crash — a crash starting with the consequences of overpopulation — pollution, wars, crime, economic fluctuations and crashes, overfishing of the oceans, deforestation, and others, and continuing with climate shifts and a likely crisis of agriculture (declining food quality and quantity).
Human civilization, as a whole, needs to rehabilitate the truth-sense — and that means both recognizing the ring of truth and recognizing (and allowing) the sense of mystery that signals us when we really don’t know what’s what. We need both — equally — for reasons I explain, here.
People are bogged down in everything we think we know and one symptom is that our ability to pay attention has been reduced. People are chronically disturbed by what’s inside and distracted by what’s outside, and that’s called “ADD” and “ADHD”.
The problems facing civilization have been compounded by people’s inability (and unwillingness) to take in new information, and that has to do with more than just the “information glut”; it has to do with a slowed-down “attention refreshment rate” — the ability to clear the mind. It’s both. I’ll explain that, too.
This piece is about what keeps human civilization bogged down and what it will take, most basically, to stop and to reverse a “civilization nosedive” (and planetary calamity). I’m not being presumptuous. I’m being starkly truthful.
USING our INTELLIGENCE BETTER
Now, by, “intelligence”, I don’t mean, “intellect”. Those are not the same. “Intellect”, as it commonly appears, these days, is just the ability to link concepts together and put words (or symbols) to them. Nothing about intellect guarantees wisdom — the truth-sense that underlies the ability to generate and sustain well-being.
There are four aspects (factors) of intelligence, upon which the truth-sense depend
imagination | intention | memory | attention
They inter-relate, like this:
Now, that may be a lot to swallow. It’s rather big. Just put your attention on each of the word-sets and notice how the meanings interconnect. It will appeal to your intuition and it will make sense.
The Truth-Sense depends upon all four. Without all four operating and well-integrated with each other, ideas of “truth” get reduced to words and facts of a narrowed significance that doesn’t take the broad realities of the world into account; the truth-sense gets distorted or faint, leading to multiple problems — and I’ll say plenty about that as we get into this piece.
So, intellect, the “coin-of-the-realm” of our technological society, these days, is often deficient in “truth-sense” and has gone astray — and I’ll say more about that, too.
For now, I’m just going to launch into a series a points that show how our educational approaches and habits of technology have put civilization in jeopardy — and offer a way out that MUST be taken if we are to bring our civilization out of a nosedive.
HOW HUMAN SUCCESS HAS LED TO A CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION
From the heading to this section, you may think that what follows is going to be obvious; I think you’ll be surprised — both by the origin of the massive problems we face and by the basic, required solution. I’ll be specific.
Three Advantages Tempt Toward Three Pitfalls
Three evolutionary developments have led to the success of humanity as a species. In their extreme states of development, they’ve gone in an unbalanced direction and have now made humanity a hazard to ourselves as a species and a danger to the rest of the earth’s living life-support system.
Those three evolutionary developments are memory, language, and products of “the hand” (technology and art).
They worked for a time in human history. Now, they are out of balance in ways that I will recognizably describe.
Humanity faces a crisis of integrity.
The way I mean, INTEGRITY, is not the usual sense confused with “honesty”. I mean it in the purest sense of the term: the sense of “something recognizable being there — something that holds together and can withstand participating in experience”.
Integrity is just a matter of things working together to do what they can’t do, by themselves.
As an example, an airplane consists of parts put together. Without the “together” part, we don’t have an airplane; what we have is a pile of parts.
An airplane is said to have “structural integrity” if it can keep together and function under a range of conditions. If, in a test flight, it breaks apart, it’s said to have lost structural integrity. Integrity means, “wholeness”.
When you remember anything, you’re remembering an arrangement, the wholeness of which looks like the thing you’re remembering and which persists through some span of time.
What follows isn’t just for you to memorize or intellectually to understand. This isn’t a high school or college course where you get a grade for remembering something you’ve been told. It’s for you to “locate” in yourself, as a set of experiences that everybody has.
The way most people regard memory is
REMEMBERING + INTEGRITY + PERSISTENCE
REMEMBERING + PERSISTENCE + INTEGRITY
You may not have thought about it, but if you consider it, you’ll see it’s so, in your case.
That formulation leaves the impression of three ingredients of memory, doesn’t it? But, when we remember things, we remember whole things, not “ingredients”.
I’d like to present a different way of looking at memory (again, four factors):
ATTENDING to REMEMBERING * INTEGRITY * PERSISTING
[ * = “TIMES”, AS IN MULTIPLCATION ]
REMEMBERING * PERSISTING ATTENDING to * INTEGRITY
The “times” symbols ( ” * ” ) are deliberate and may bewilder you; you’re just not used to them. They signify, “transformation”, not “addition” ( ” + ” ) — not “the collection of ingredients”, anymore, but something new.
That “sense of something new” requires you to let go of remembering the ingredients, to take a fresh look at that “something new”. A cake is different from a collection of ingredients; it’s the transformation of those ingredients into something new.
You can’t imagine the cake that’s going to come out of a new recipe, in advance. You may know the new ingredients, but the cake that will come from them is unknown.
Memory, alone, leaves reality incomplete. Memory, alone, is an incomplete view of reality
That said, the development of memory and the acquisition of knowledge have been an obvious advantage to humanity’s development of civilization and is now becoming a gigantic disadvantage.
Knowledge Has Gotten Too Big for Its Britches.
Things change. Everything that we remember is “the way that it was.” We have no certainty, no assurance, that the way anything was is the way that it is or will continue to be.
To assert that the way something was is the way it is, is to misrepresent our degree knowledge. It may or may not be so.
But people everywhere represent that they know more than they actually do. There’s a reason, for that, that I will get into.
This cultural habit of clinging to the appearance of being, “a knower”, has led to humanity being bound up in ways of perceiving, thinking and acting that have led to chronic conflict and failure to change with the necessities of the times.
It interferes even with efforts to seek knowledge to overcome problems. Even in the face of new knowledge, people go for the familiar. That’s how advertising works: by making what is new seem familiar. People go for “the familiar”.
Not surprising — but there’s a deeper problem:
Education Perpetuated Civilization — and is Now Bringing it Down.
Education is the foundation of civilization and its continuance from generation to generation. Education, the way it’s been done, is relies heavily upon memory.
While that seems inevitable and necessary and to have worked for most of human history, the way it’s been done is not sufficient, anymore.
Memory-dominant education has a gigantic pitfall that didn’t become obvious until the knowledge-base of humanity became too great for any one individual to contain, until the world population grew so large that different cultures had to interact with each other, and until human technology because a dominant force accelerating cultural change faster than people could keep up.
People are drowning in memories — and don’t even know or recognize it.
All new developments of culture come in through “the imagination channel” — art (“the beautiful”), morality (“the good”), and technology (“the true”) — and there’s the rub: two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time. When memory dominates, imagination recedes. Knowledge and tradition that at first kept things aloft are now ballast.
Education and Pride in Knowing
The “educational” orientation teaches people “pride in knowing”. Along with that goes, “shame in not-knowing” or fear of not knowing or fear of being wrong.
Accordingly, people become conceited about their knowledge — and unreceptive to new understandings, particularly breakthroughs that alter their understanding (and the apparent validity) of current knowledge.
People become resistant to (or uncomfortable with) change because change ALWAYS involves a temporary state of not-knowing (which I call, “Being in The Zone of Incomprehensibility”). In other words, when people cling to “the old”, nothing new can come in. That state defeats (or impedes) the recognition of new developments — and the emergence of new understanding.
So, one of the side-effects of the current “educational” orientation is apparent (learned) stupidity.
The fundamental requirement of emerging insight and understanding is a sense (or a tolerance) of mystery, of simple not-knowing (not mystery of the spooky kind). Mystery is a kind of mental “space” into which new understanding emerges. The sense of curiosity attracts new things to fill it; it’s a hunger. Curiosity is an appetite the way hunger is an appetite. Curiosity depends on mystery.
When the sense of knowing dominates the sense of mystery, nothing new can come in. “The appetite is satisfied.”
Knowledge overshadowing the sense of mystery defeats or impedes all human development — all human development. The satisfied appetite hopes things won’t change, so it can continue to be satisfied. People want to keep their money, their self-image, and their social status. (That’s the original meaning of the political term, “conservative”.)
People Seem Reasonably Intelligent …
Memory gives the illusion of intelligence. Observe people’s behavior in public places, such as restaurants and entertainment venues. Generally, people seem reasonable, normal, and for the most part, reasonably intelligent. That’s because they “know the rules” of their situation — and know how to play by them — or break them.
Even rough-hewn individuals may seem reasonably intelligent — some of the time. That’s a sign that people have become used to a low standard of intelligence and of decorum (behavior).
But that’s not intelligence; that’s memory in action. Memory just makes things seem reliable.
When Things Change, However . . .
What does someone who operates from memory do when “something happens”? They consult memory for what to do. Conventional thinking.
Put people into an unfamiliar, or more open-ended, circumstance (such as a political campaign, a political rally, a political office — or a job promotion or relocation). They lose their bearings and you notice how unintelligent they (you) feel.
Now, I’m going to use a “charged” term, and so I need to tell you what I mean, by it. The term is, “idiocy”. As I define it, “idiocy” is, “an automatic, habitual, detrimental action not appropriate to the situation”. It’s not just an insult; it’s a technical term.
Idiocy shows up as . . .
- the pomp that surrounds government and political activitiesGovernment is supposed to be a matter of public service. That makes pomp a form of idiocy.
- consumerism and endless economic growth (beyond planetary capacity)
- unregulated pollution (goes with consumerism and population growth)
- tax cuts for the wealthy and unlimited wealth acquisition (which leads to economic system “diabetes” and self-anaesthetizing addictions of numerous sorts)
- Trickle-Down Theory (depends upon the wealthy wanting it to trickle down)
- market (and bank) deregulation (which lead to economic “obesity” — fat cats)
Conventional thinking is approximate, sometimes, very approximate. Going by conventional thinking (memory — “We’ve always done it that way” or “That’s standard operating procedure,” or “That would be the standard of practice”) can and does tend toward idiotic behavior all over the place — where people substitute, “can’t” for “won’t”.
What people should do is cultivate all four factors, in themselves so that, while accumulated memory helps them recognize something about a situation, continued attention stimulates imagination that arouses an intention better fitting to that situation — than to the situation remembered.
attend * recognize * imagine * inten
It’s fine-tuning that is possible when all four factors of intelligence are accessible and well-integrated, for the individual, when the individual’s intelligence isn’t being confined to memory. Otherwise, we have a dunderheaded individual who is like steering out of alignment or like a stick through the spokes of a wheel.
Ring a bell?
Scientific Knowledge is Real Knowledge?
Scientific knowledge is only approximate. That’s why science requires multiple measurements of anything and why “rounding” is used. That’s why engineering speaks in terms of “tolerances”; ask the engineers who designed the Space Shuttle. Any measurement (the mainstay of science) is approximate; ask any astronomer. Error is “built in” to measurement; that’s why the term, “margin of error” is used.
So engineers and scientists get used to accepting “relative certainty” as “practically absolute certainty, where a margin of tolerance or error is involved. It’s an artificial certainty used as a “go” signal. It becomes an aggressive conventional attitude, that something approximately known is certainly known.
Feel the attitude. Familiar?
Quantum physicists devised an experiment related to computing in which they discovered that the behavior of two interrelated systems can be predicted at most 85% of the time. The 15% is unknown.
So, to assume the sufficiency of memory for predicting new experiences is a case of “knowledge being too big for its britches.”
Even Measurement is only Approximate.
“Measurement” is the basis of science — but every scientist and every engineer knows that measurement always involves some degree of error, called, “measurement error.” Tolerances for error are always built into design specifications.
By disregarding measurement errors, technologists discard the portion of Mystery that exists in every calculation. They disregard the margin of error part and assume knowledge, based on the rest — knowledge good enough for action, good enough to make a product that will perform adequately.
But measurement errors are always there. That’s why product warranties exist.
The Seeming Solidity of Experience is the Experience of Your Own Mental Solidity.
The sense of “solidity” is what makes a memory seem reliable and correct — whether or not it happens to be reliable or correct. The solidity exists, not in the event or object, but in your sense of memory. The solidity of your memory provides a relatively fixed attention-point for pegging an experience. It’s not the experience that you experience as, “solid”, but your own four-factor intelligence.
attending to the appearance of it
having a persistent intention toward it
Your perception is approximate, and so is your sense of the reality of anything. But it seems true and reliable because you override the uncertainty of your “margin of error”.
If you really “get” that, if you get how the words, above, connect, that recognition changes your mind from “hard certainty” about apparently objective reality to a recognition that the “hardness” is you. You may then intuit the “portion” of Mystery that exceeds hard science and technology. “Your elevator” might not work right, for all time! There’s the possibility of “the unexpected”. That’s why they have that red button, right?
The upshot of all this? To the degree that you feel “certain” about something, to that degree you’re consulting your memory and disregarding your “margin of error”. Rather than the direct experience of the moment (which has elements of “unknown” to it), you’re experiencing indirectly through your acquired (known) memories of experience.
If you’re intelligently present to the present moment, you’re uncertain, but receptive — directly confronting the mystery of reality, not “already knowing”, as the next moment of ordinary experience occurs.
Knowledge is approximate, but helps us put our attention on something. Direct experience is always*already unknown in any absolute sense, but known relative to accumulated memories.
When the weight of those accumulated memories fades, so does the apparent “certainty of knowing” fade. We realize Mystery to be the case. We don’t know.
Distinguish clearly between the two — relative knowledge (sufficiently knowing) and absolute knowledge (truthfully unknowing). Know the difference between direct experience (in mystery about what’s coming next) and memory (approximate expectation based on what came, before).
Language gives us a handle on things. That’s useful, obviously — but it’s also approximate because it depends on memory.
Language also puts something between ourselves and direct experience: words. People commonly pay more attention to words (and thinking) than we do to direct experience; we even confuse the two, thinking they are the same.
Because the emphasis on language and knowing is the foundation of education, the noise of the word-mind gets “louder” than our direct experience and our “truth-sense”. People lose touch with reality, more in touch with thinking — their thinking — than with direct experience. They become more and more “conventional” thinkers, conformists, mediocre persons — inside “the box”. They even override conscience.
People who know something about something may act as if what they know is all they need to know about it, or even all there is to know about it.
As soon as we get recognize something, that’s it; we tend to cease to pay attention to details. Our attention becomes superficial. Errors of judgment occur. Actions get taken in haste. Mistakes get made. Quality of life ceases to improve or goes down.
People get reluctant to adjust to change, to “make an exception”, when called for by a situation. They miss opportunities because they feel as if, “I already know what’s what — and that ain’t it.”
When people run their lives by “word-knowledge”, they tend to give their intelligence over to those who seem to have more word-knowledge, for example, to the news media.
If you can “talk a good talk”, you get credibility.
Assuming that others are more intelligent than we are because they can talk the talk better than we can is the perfect description of the mind of a child.
When people don’t think things through, for themselves, they blithely (casually and automatically) accept popular views of things. They get intellectually lazy. Critical thinking goes out the window.
But there exists an even more insidious effect of language:
Hardened attitudes form.
People automatically believe and act as if their own thinking is correct (even if they claim to be “open minded” or “skeptical”); they lose intelligence.
The “I already know” mentality leads to anxieties and, sometimes, to unnecessary pre-emptive actions (such as wars or breaking up from an intimate friend or partner).
People who operate primarily from their “word-minds” tend to override their feelings (e.g., conscience) in favor of “what they know” (what reason suggests is necessary). That explains The News, politics, economic catastrophes, wars, racism (and other ‘isms’), educational incompetence and social injustices.
It also explains people’s unwillingness to acknowledge and correct their mistakes — especially in politics (where correcting mistakes may be unfairly criticized as, “flip-flopping” or incompetence) and large-scale control situations, like corporations.
Unfortunately, people have been “educated” to make knowledge their (unacknowledged) religion (and indeed, the basis of all organized religion) and their stream of thought is uninterrupted and interminable. They commonly go with (and defend) their own thinking as if they were correct and wise because the appearance of knowledge makes people look good, and not to know makes them look bad.
Experience is a lot more fluid than what language can contain. Life is mysterious. You don’t even know your next thought, never mind what’s going to happen next. Our knowledge and expectations are approximate and often entirely wrong.
The “knowledge cult” of “education” makes people dense.
Knowledge has gotten too big for its britches.
Combine The Pitfall of Memory with The Pitfall of Language, You Get The Entry of Untruth.
Memory and language started with the intention to be truthful and useful.
However, once someone recognized that they could manipulate others with language, the possibility of dishonesty entered the picture.
Now, “truth” is regarded as “a fashionable way of looking at something” — and dishonest terms, such as “alternate facts” and “fake news”, have gained entry.
Now, people use language without regard for truthfulness to manipulate others.
Language, which previously was an instrument for manipulating experience, has become something to be manipulated, itself.
Enter advertising, fiction, political speeches and falsehoods of all kinds.
Am I touching a nerve, here?
The Price of Truthfulness?
People have commonly come to regard truthfulness as having a cost that may be greater than the cost of untruth. True?
Memories of experience, or memories of stories, may make it seem, so. Common social attitudes about truthfulness, as portrayed in entertainment, may make it seem so.
So, people’s truth-sense has been blunted.
Some people consider it, “sophisticated”, to distort the truth and get away, with it.
The Price of Being False
Being false has a heavy price — and people sell out their integrity, for cheap.
The heavy price comes in the form of loss of the reliability of memory, the loss of trust, and the loss of the full use of ones faculties that comes from the loss of integrity. People sell out “for cheap” — and they don’t recognize the price because they suppress that knowledge, in themselves. When they sell out for cheap, they betray themselves.
Enter stupidity, incompetence, criminal investigations, and divorce lawyers. Mental health goes downhill; depression sets in. Alcohol and drug use increase. Actions needed never happen. Money and resources get wasted. With the impairment of mental capacity and the loss of trust, commerce slows and falters (also known as, “recession” or “depression”).
The solution to this abuse of language is to recognize that “truth” is not something that can be made up and that integrity is not something “costs”; it is to recognize that truth and integrity gird the power to accomplish. A blunted truth-sense is one meaning of “the blind leading the blind.”
To clean up a situation, we must intervene where the problem is — not outside us, but in our “truth sense”.
Our “truth sense” gets distorted when we put “word-mind” and memory ahead of direct experience ( about being in mystery of “what’s coming next”).
We must get control of the balance between memory and imagination; we must rehabilitate our “truth sense”.
We’ll get to that at the end.
TECHNOLOGY and THE ARTS — THE PRODUCTS of MINDS and HANDS and THE DUMBING DOWN OF CIVILIZATION
Up to a point, technology gives us more freedom. However, that freedom exacts a price: obliviousness, stagnation, irresponsibility — and it eats up our time.
Up to a point, art enhances our lives. By distilling the truth of things in refined expressions, art makes us feel better. That’s its purpose.
But art has been dumbed-down to the point where unrefined junk has been legitimized as “artistic expression”.
Even Feeling Better May Exact a Price
That “feeling better”, whether from technology or from art, exacts a price: it distracts us from what we feel, without it.
Both technology and art start out as a boon to humanity and become “opiates of the masses”.
Accumulating wealth has the same effect. Often, people pursue wealth as a way to feel better. As a rule of thumb, you can tell how emotionally unbalanced and dependent wealthy people are on the consolations of ownership by the degree of their pursuit of wealth.
PREOCCUPED by TECHNOLOGICAL ‘TOYS’
People become preoccupied by the technologies they use.
Let’s talk about two major technologies (that have significant overlap):
- Smart Phones
- Video Entertainment
Take smart phones.
A smart phone is a computer in your pocket. It’s great for getting information on the fly.
As a communication device, however, smart phones exact a heavy price when people would rather text than talk.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of texting (in case they’re not obvious):
- Texting slows conversations down so people may consider what’s they’re about to say before they say it
- Texting removes the need for both parties to be available at the same time.
- Texting removes spontaneity from conversation — and with it, honesty or authenticity.
- Texting leaves out the subtlety of communication that comes from tone of voice and pacing of a response.
Texting makes communication into “thin soup” — and many people prefer it that way.
Users of social media like Facebook substitute frequency of trivial communications for depth of relationship — and they may not know any better if they’ve grown up with smart phones.
People confuse the little “lift” they get when they hear a “message chime” with the feeling of actual connection with someone else, which is far richer and more detailed than a chime — and also more demanding of their intelligence and emotional maturity.
So, people substitute “hello” for depth of interaction. The quality of relationships goes down. More “thin soup”.
Smart phones have another effect — an obvious one. What’s the most obvious sign that someone is occupied with his or her smart phone?
Their head is forward and face-down and they’re completely oblivious to their surroundings.
Smart phones teach people to narrow their attention — the opposite of what happens with maturation (expansion of their field of attention to include more of the world) — and the opposite of what’s needed in a healthy society.
More than that, the “head down” position is the position of non-involvement or even of submission (as to “the status quo”).
So, for many, using a smart phone cultivates obliviousness, superficiality, a narrowed field of activity and non-involvement.
Those effects lead to boredom — and to intensified dependency on the most distraction-rich object in the immediate environment: their smart phone.
And the civilization nosedive continues.
Video entertainment and entertainment, in general, train people to be more spectator than participant. There’s a price, for that, which has placed civilization at higher risk.
Entertainment distracts. The distraction is distraction from their own lives.
So, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, movies were the great distraction. They featured stories about wealthy people with servants, top hats, high-ceilings, polished floors, art deco apartments and big houses.
Nowadays, the makers of video content mostly go for “catching people’s attention”, rather than for excellent entertainment — hence, the frequency of material involving guns, violence, danger, and alarming messages — all of which catch attention on “the Stress Channel”. It’s “junk food” — bad entertainment put out there just because “it sells” — not because it’s high quality entertainment. That goes for The News, too.
People live their lives in “the swimming pool of culture”. Because the “waters” of the “swimming pool” have become so dirty with emotional disturbance and stress, almost anything that distracts (and gives some relief from the sense of being immersed in “dirty emotional waters”) will “sell” — so the makers of video content (and movies, and music) sell almost anything that will sell, as entertainment.
Have you noticed?
Video has another effect on people: it teaches them to be unresponsive spectators. That’s why they call it “watching” video. What can anyone do about the calamities reported in the news? Nothing but watch.
So, apart from sports (about which fans get all emotional, but do nothing more), people sit in front of video and just watch.
Video trains people are to see, hear, and experience emotion — and not to take action.
For fiction, that’s appropriate.
For political news, the “passivity-training” of video leads to a passive, controllable population of consumers.
SUMMARY on SMART PHONES and VIDEO
So, smart phones may be interactive, but they narrow people’s focus to themselves and train them to be uninvolved with what’s around them (and you can see that in any store where people appear to be oblivious to the people around them).
Video may broaden people’s view of life, but it trains them to take no initiative, to let others take the initiative.
Video and smart phones are a microcosm of what goes on in a technological culture, as a whole. They “contain” people in a stagnant, or degenerative, way of life.
They dumb people down.
OTHER KINDS of TECHNOLOGY
Other kinds of technology complete the “enclosure” or “encapsulation” of “the swimming pool of culture” — everything from religion to shopping malls. They’re all built upon the same rehash of standard (remembered) attitudes and standard (subliminally remembered) values, generally, money, food, and sex and the emergencies of life.
The conveniences of technology have led people to become complacent and numb (dumb) about the precarious and degenerating state of civilization. This state of degeneration is so familiar that the very idea that things could be very different seems novel, inconvenient, or hard to understand, for some (many) people.
MAD SCIENTIST TECHNOLOGY
Now, I want to address the “creator side”.
Up to this point, I’ve addressed the “consumer side” of technology. However, there’s a darker side: technology taken too far or the wrong direction.
In science fiction stories, there exists the character called, The Mad Scientist.
In Sci-Fi stories, The Mad Scientist is always involved in doing what should not be done — what others feel should not be done and what they, themselves, feel should not be done. Mad Scientists go too far. Like adolescents, they chafe against limits — just like adolescents.
Mad Scientists really exist and provide profit centers for big businesses such as Monsanto, Bayer, and the Big Pharma companies.
Mad scientists develop artificial “food products”. “Frankenfood” is a term applied to food products derived from genetic engineering.
Let me offer a statement of something that should be obvious:
Just because something could be done doesn’t mean that it should be done.
With this statement, I’m going against the preferences of enthusiasts of bioengineering and artificial intelligence.
They feel that
- Any direction they can explore, with science, they should explore, as if that were a moral imperative of science.
- They have no responsibility for how their findings are used.
That’s like saying they have no responsibility for how their offspring (children) relate to others or how others relate to their offspring.
They may say, “But that’s different.”
I’m saying that it isn’t different. Their scientific and technological developments are their offspring. I’m saying that the responsibility is exactly the same, whether it’s biology or technology. “Do your best, responsibly, to see to it that your offspring are a benign influence in the world; don’t just let them loose like bats out of a belfry,” — or practice “contraception”. Since innovators don’t often have control of their offspring, perhaps they should use good judgment and sometimes, practice the latter: refuse to participate.
I’m saying that the, “That’s not my responsibility,” attitude is irresponsible, more irresponsible than the attitude of Dr. Frankenstein because they may not claim innocence.
Whether or not it’s your job and someone is paying you to do it, you are to be responsible.
Now, to make some points, I’ll say more about two of the pet projects of science and technology: bioengineering and artificial intelligence.
By this term, I’m referring to genetic engineering and “cyborg” technology — and I’ll explain.
Genetic engineering involves tinkering with the DNA sequencing that controls the development and behavior of living creatures.
Cyborg technology involves implanting devices into living creatures.
I’ll talk about both.
Enthusiasts of genetic engineering cite the benefits — treating diseases, more productive agriculture, and technical problem-solving.
What they’re enthusiastic about, really, is the profit potential. What they don’t seem to care about are the side-effects.
How can we tell? Look at how business take advantage of profit potential and avoid responsibility for the greater effects on affected populations. Look at Flint, Michigan; look at the lawsuits filed by Monsanto against farmers who don’t use their GMO seed; look at the decimation of bee populations by Bayer products.
For all actions, there are side effects. There are no exceptions. Some are greater than others, but side-effects always occur and they are always unanticipated (just as a combination of new ingredients produces new results).
Cooking makes a mess. Sex complicates relationships. High finance increases economic burdens. All political solutions make some people unhappy. All technology creates pollution. Even peeing creates splashes in all directions! Side-effects.
Humans are inherently unprepared for side-effects because they can’t predict them all. The side-effects they know about (from past experience), they manage for better, for worse, or not at all — and their managing of them produces more side-effects.
Managing Side-Effects Produces More Side-effects
For example, pharmaceutical drugs have side-effects (including drug interactions) — which physicians attempt to manage by prescribing additional drugs — but which produce additional side-effects. This practice leads to “drug toxicity (pile-up)”.
That’s true of drugs that have been extensively tested.
What of the unanticipated side-effects of genetic tinkering that spill into society and into our environment? Humans don’t understand living eco-systems, very well. They can describe what they see, but they can’t predict changes.
Humans can’t predict drug interactions (until after they have happened); how are they going to predict side-effects from genetic engineering? How are they going to manage them?
Humans are in over their heads, when it comes to genetic engineering, regardless of the individual, predicted effects it can produce.
There’s that matter of responsibility.
Replacements for lost organs or limbs are examples of cyborg technology. “Better than original” enhancements are on the agenda. You can find out about them on YouTube.com.
Combining cyborg technology with genetic tinkering, Mad Scientists (who think of themselves as “legitimate scientists”) envision “super-individuals”.
Humanity can’t competently manage societies as they are, never mind societies that include artificially enhanced individuals or classes of individuals. Just look at the controversy surrounding “doping” in athletics, a bare hint of what may come.
Controversy Depends on the Legitimacy of Two Views
Talk of these topics as being, “controversial”, seems to hold that there is comparable legitimacy to advancing bioengineering in the ways I have been discussing.
There is no legitimacy to arguments in favor of this kind of bioengineering because it’s sanctioned and conducted by people whose ability (and willingness) to imagine and manage side-effects (foresight and conscience) is either inadequate to the scope of their undertaking — or suppressed in favor of “foreseeable profits and ego status”.
I’m saying that they should restrain themselves and, at least, retrain themselves, so that the four factors of intelligence in them are well-turned-on and integrated before they go dabbling in the irreversible.
Asking them to do that may be like asking adolescents to practice abstinence.
Artificial Intelligence (“AI”)
The term, “artificial intelligence” covers everything from “devices that think” to the notion of transferring individual (personal) consciousness from a living body to an electronic device. Just ask Siri (Apple computer OS) or Alexa (Windows OS).
It’s all ridiculous — for two reasons:
- “Devices that think” put more power into the hands of self-serving individuals who already abuse the power that they have — think of the invasion of privacy by the NSA
- Artificial Intelligence creates the risk of devices taking over civilization as humans hand more and more responsibility and control over to them (as humans are prone to do). Unpredicted side-effects are inevitable.
- Consciousness is not a product of the brain that can be moved about.
A brain is just a matter-energy arrangement. Changing an arrangement only changes the experience of the arrangement. Ask yourself, “How can re-arranging something produce consciousness?”
Consciousness is a property of matter/energy, whatever the arrangement.
Here’s a related question: The operation of the brain consists of electro-chemical impulses. How do electrical impulses become sensations (never mind, consciousness)?
I haven’t even started talking about emotions.
The idea of “exporting consciousness” rests upon unfound assumptions. These people are going to export consciousness to electronic devices?
Again, it’s a case of irresponsibility and self-indulgence adding massive complexity to a civilization that is already “under water” (bogged down) managing the complexity that already exists.
Who pays? Humanity and the biosphere pay. Who profits? You know.
This is what happens when Mad Scientists get paid to do their work.
In a way, the Mad Scientist is an exaggerated form of the corrupt politician and “the organization man“. They do what should not be done for the benefit of their special interests, rather than looking after the common good for current and future generations.
LOOKING AT ALL THREE AREAS, AGAIN
In each of these three areas, language, memory, and technology, those who are somewhat more advanced have tended to seek dominion, or advantage over, those who are less advanced — and they think that’s O.K. because their truth-sense has been blunted by their cultural conditioning.
However, that state of affairs isn’t necessary or built into language, memory and technology; it’s that people are poorly educated and complacent.
Because people are complacent, they don’t take responsibility for social conditions that, on one hand, cause social (e.g., economic) imbalances and unnecessary suffering or for the exploiters-in-power who create those conditions. They tolerate them because they are pacified into complacency by distraction and nominal satisfaction of needs.
Meanwhile, “Rome burns” as crises converge on human civilization.
All of this happens because a dumbed-down population allows scientists and technologists who aren’t playing with a full deck to have free rein.
And that’s the fault of the current “cult of education”. Here’s how.
SHORTCHANGED by EDUCATION
The fault lies entirely with those who control education, or who pass on tradition, both of which seek to give “ownership” power to those in the know and in possession.
The very purpose of education has to do with continuity of what has gone before. Education is the means by which civilization passes from generation to generation. But it has been cheapened and degraded by making education the servant of commerce, i.e., money.
But education, as currently practiced, is out of balance. It’s not playing with a full deck.
The result? a stunted and blunted “truth sense”, stunted creativity — and stunted conscience and lack of self-regulation
THE FOUR “SUITS” of INTELLIGENCE
There are four basic “suits” of intelligence:
imagination | intention | memory | attention
Every learned ability depends upon all four, not just upon any one of them.
But education (both basic and higher) primarily emphasizes only one of those four basic aspects of intelligence — memory — and leaves the others to “fend for themselves”.
Because the idea that there are four basic aspects of intelligence that underlie ALL expressions of intelligence, may be a new idea, to you, I will point you to a resource (at the end of this piece) to help you get a better handle on the four.
For now, I will talk more in summary about them.
The Fault Lies with an Educational Process — Whether Formal or Informal — that Fails to Educate all of the Suits of Intelligence.
Education is overwhelmingly about memorizing, memorizing, memorizing. That’s what makes it so unpleasant, so boring.
Even the idea of “understanding” something has more to do with stringing remembered together things than of awakening intuitive depth of understanding. Intuitive understanding is even disparaged in “hard” fields of study like mathematics and science, even though those fields emerged on the “coattails” of intuition.
The three other suits of intelligence, if equally emphasized, would enhance human development far more than memorization, alone — and would rehabilitate people’s truth-sense.
To re-state, those three other “suits” are …
ATTENTION | INTENTION | IMAGINATION
Of those, imagination is what gives flavor to a learning experience. Imagination is the “incoming channel” for new experiences, for insight, for ingenuity, and for intuition.
Developing imagination (in tandem with memory, attention, and deliberate intention) leads to new discoveries; developing attention (in tandem with intention and memory) sharpens the ability to see details and relationships; developing intention (in tandem with imagination, memory and attention) leads to fine work. New discoveries, details and relationships, fine work.
See how bringing all four up to speed would rehabilitate people’s truth-sense?
However, in education, imagination has been made into the handmaiden of memorization.
Playing with a Full Deck
Only secondarily is education (as practiced) about the other three mental faculties. For example, attention is only demanded (and hoped for), but not intelligently (that is, directly) cultivated in educational settings.
Doesn’t it seem so, to you?
Intention and Attention
Back to “the four suits”, in educational settings, the exercise of the intention (to pass on knowledge) gets enforced by means of bribery and threats (grades and approval or disapproval).
So, students develop the intention to pay attention, in class — more or less — and become more and more habituated, in general, to bribery and threats being standard operating procedure.
That’s about as far as developing intention and attention go in education — the intention to pay attention enough to memorize something.
Only secondarily is education about imagination, which in educational settings is barely cultivated and remains subject to the approval of authorities in the educational settings. In fact, instead of using the power of daydreaming in learning situations, educators want to prevent daydreaming in their students!
So, as a result, you’ve noticed, if you’ve been paying attention, that imaginativeness has declined under our present educational approach; the quality of entertainment has declined in recent times because of the decline of imaginativeness (even if technical execution has improved because of technology).
Imagining and Remembering are Part of Each Other.
In common learning, if you want to memorize something, you imagine it repeatedly, to yourself, until it “sticks” (consolidates as a memory).
However, it’s common for one to dominate the other. Imagination is the flow of newness from the unknown; memory is the consolidation and perpetuation of what has gone before.
When memory dominates, we expect that how things have been is how they will be, again. Memory inherently biases imagination.
It’s also possible for imagination to dominate memory, as in situations of denial, as well as in situations of inspiration. Imagination transcends memory; imagination is the “mouth” that is open to Mystery.
In formal education, term projects and term papers are more about showing that you have memorized the material than about creating anything new (too far in advance of the standard view of things), so memory dominates.
THE TRADITIONAL STANDARD of EDUCATION is GONE.
There once existed a rationale for the curriculum required to earn a degree, “to develop well-rounded individuals”. That rationale has been abandoned. Few well-rounded individuals emerge from education. Education turns out idiots; just read the news.
The process so disproportionately emphasizes memory — inclusion of studies in the humanities and in the sciences notwithstanding — that the few well-rounded individuals who do emerge are well-rounded because they followed their own interests, not the educational curriculum. Such “well-rounded individuals” are called, “visionaries.”
CHANGE: THE ORDER of the DAY
People generally don’t change unless they feel they have to – and the recognition that they have to depends upon their ability (and willingness) to take changing conditions into account — changing conditions that they tend to overlook or ignore if those conditions are new and no memories exist, of them — as in the changes, these days.
The cultural acceptance of new things relies entirely upon the willingness of people to relax their grip on what they already know and to open themselves to what they do not already know. But they can’t — due to the indoctrination of conventional, knowledge-based education into the habit of having a tight grip on memory.
Humanity has become bound up in patterns of memory that perpetuate “ethnic cleansing” (an abomination of a term for culture wars and attempted genocide), corporate competition, political unscrupulousness, obsolete ways of doing things, entrenched wealth, power and status; denial of problems that absolutely need solving, and value systems that confer advantage to the few at the disadvantage of the many.
Sound like the governments of totalitarian regimes? or the U.S. government?
Acceptance of Change Requires Trust as Well as Abstract Faith.
One of the requirements for accepting cultural change, is trust. Trust is trust in the truth.
Ordinarily the sense of truth comes from memory. If something fits our memory or is plausible because of what we remember, we are inclined to accept its truth.
We find it easier to imagine things we remember, and that’s the basis for our truth-sense and our ability to recognize anything.
If we can’t imagine something, we tend not to consider it, truth, and don’t trust it.
When the changes of the times are unprecedented or don’t correspond to our memory of how things have been, they don’t trigger our truth-sense. We may remain doubtful.
In addition, belief in the legitimacy of “alternative truths” undermines trust in the truth, and that leaves us unprepared for great changes, such as we are experiencing, these days.
That’s what happens when people operate primarily from memory, as trained by conventional education. People remain mistrustful and slow to change.
The whole orientation of education is at fault. It’s at fault for two simple reasons:
- It uses memorization without equally cultivating imagination, attention, and intentionality, so people most always develop with handicapped intelligence.
- It teaches people to evaluate reality on based on memory and to avoid “not knowing” (“being in mystery”). People become slower to recognize changes and remain slow to do something new, even when something new is called for.
Under memorization-based education, the response to drastically changing conditions tends to be either an emergency response to perpetuate the old order and old knowledge, mere denial, or the emergency seeking of new solutions while ensnared by old ways of acting and thinking.
What people need is a “re-set” of the truth-sense back to “clear”.
The term, attention refreshment-rate, is apt.
Let me explain the term, a bit more.
I’ll use the example of video.
The earliest video technology, moving pictures (film) consisted of a series of still photographs taken in rapid succession on a long strip of film at a rate of 16 frames per second. Those films, when viewed at their original rate, have a jerky appearance. The jerky appearance is due to the amount of change that occurs from frame to frame missing all of the changes that occurred between frames. The refresh rate of film, at that time, being 16 frames per second, was much slower than the refresh rate of human attention, so we perceive the jerkiness and the lost detail of change from frame to frame. It’s for that reason that the frame rate of film was increased to 24 frames per second, and of electronic video, to 30 frames per second.
Human attention has a refresh rate. Unlike video, which has a set refresh rate, human attention has a very variable attention-refreshment rate. Smart people have a high attention-refreshment rate; they can take in a lot of information because they are capable of capturing more detail because of their higher attention-refreshment rate. Stupid people have a slow attention-refreshment rate. They can take in much less detail because of that lower rate. They’re even called, slow.
The refresh-rate of humanity has failed to speed up enough for people either to take in the details of new conditions sufficiently quickly and sufficiently intelligently to change quickly or effectively enough to face the onslaught of accelerating change.
Memory puts drag into the refresh rate of attention. Attention has to come free of memory enough to allow new impressions to come in. Two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time.
This is not to say that stupid people are stupid because they have too many memories, though that’s true. Consider feuds and long-standing ethnic antagonisms.
It is to say that even a smart person, when he or she becomes too attached to memories and knowledge, loses mental flexibility (the capacity to imagine, to “think outside the box”) and so to lag in ability to change. They become entrenched, and with entrenchment, all of the systems through which authority leads to action become mired in the incompetence that comes from failure to change.
That’s why technological breakthroughs generally come from outside the main stream.
Attention to memory without the counter-balancing of imagination acted upon intentionally, bogs us down.
SUMMARY on LANGUAGE
Language, for all the advantages it has brought to humanity, has the ultimate disadvantage of representing all experiences as, “knowns” when things are changing at an accelerating pace.
Language brings premature closure to the openness of intelligence that can see things as they are, rather than as they are known or as they are remembered.
Language makes experiences seem like objectively-existing things, reliable and with predictable substantiality that no longer need observation in order to know what to do. It gives apparent substantiality to reality.
The lack of descriptive language about something or someone (new) makes it unknown, unpredictable, and so, a possible danger.
SUMMARY on MEMORY
When people run their lives based on what they think they know, without having the “grain of sale” provided by the truth that Mystery pertains to every situation, where “knowing” means, “having words for” and “being ready for”, they are out of touch with reality. They can become a danger to themselves and to others. Do you follow the news?
The general population, who are not so smart, are even more affected by the accumulation of memories. Their “attention refreshment” rate is slowed down; their minds are gummed up. They are less willing than the better educated — or even unable to change — because of their sense of being over-challenged by the requirement to change with the times. They stick with what they know and avoid change as much as possible. They are laggard, in a state of arrested development at a time when change is accelerating.
For that reason, things get out of hand and change seems to happen at a rate faster than the general population can handle – and so they (and political “conservatives”) try to slow change down.
So, the enshrinement of word-mind memory by education, entertainment, propaganda, and tradition (memory) has started out as a boon to humanity and become an impending disaster due to learned incapacity, laggardness and stupidity — all this in a population that generally considers itself reasonably intelligent.
Get the picture?
CHEMICALLY SLOWING the ATTENTION-REFRESHMENT RATE
Alcohol, the most publicly approved intoxicant of choice, specifically makes the problem worse. Alcohol slows down the attention refresh rate.
That’s why people use it: so that they take in less of their lives and don’t feel so much distress at the way their lives actually are. That’s the reality behind the saying, “I need a drink.”
Alcohol inhibits the prefrontal cortex of the brain — the seat of discerning intelligence and self-control of behavior — and stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain – making being dull-witted or stupid a pleasure. That’s how it works as a “social lubricant”.
Opioids have similar effects. Know about the “opioid epidemic”?
So, we see the bias of humanity toward a lower attention-refreshment rate, toward the enthronement of “the thinking mind”, and toward a generally lower level of intelligence in the face of drastically changing planetary conditions.
The educational processes reflect that bias.
That bias, in turn, reflects the evolutionary state of humanity. For the past 10,000 years of recorded history, we have seen the advantages of learning (knowledge), in the development of human civilization: cultural development, language development, and technology.
Humanity has become so successful from these evolutionary developments that it has become a threat to itself and our environment.
The development of memory, the memory-bias of education, and the valuing of knowledge and power that come from education have led to an unsustainable convergence of world-situations into one giant situation: an overpopulated planet controlled by memory bound individuals bent upon maintaining and extending what they have and what they know (remember) against the wills of others who have different sets of memories and different self-interests.
That mentality, today, is analogous to that of a morbidly obese person (who is in no danger of starvation) constantly having food on their mind and intent upon stealing the food of others. How smart is that?
I’m also not saying to abolish knowledge. That would obviously be ridiculous.
What I’m saying is, teach humans to increase their attention-refreshment-rate, so they can take in new information and let go of ways that no longer work or are no longer sustainable.
That’s the needed “pivot point” of the times and the missing – and next necessary – dimension of education: to teach people to increase their attention refresh rate by learning to dissolve the grip of memory — and to rehabilitate the recognition of Mystery, for perspective. This rehabilitation is not a product of knowing intellect, but a truth-based intuitive foundation of existence that rehabilitates creativity, conscience, and self-restraint.
To dissolve the grip of memories doesn’t make them inaccessible; it just makes space for the new to emerge. Memory impressions remain, but in a less dense state that leaves them out of the way unless experience calls for them. To dissolve the grip of memories (on an item by item basis) decreases people’s density as human beings. It makes people more perceptive, quicker-witted, more freely spontaneous … better fine-tuned to the moment.
This “dissolving the grip” process is exactly what is meant by, “lightening things up”; it’s what psychotherapy is supposed to accomplish; it’s what forgiveness is supposed to be about; it’s what meditation is supposed to do; it’s what the term, “open-minded” signifies, it’s the prerequisite for adjusting to new situations, for doing new things in a new way, for clearing the way for intelligence, for surviving and thriving in a changing world that requires different things of us, as individuals and as a species, than in the past.
Times are changing more quickly. The accelerating rate of world change requires a higher attention refresh rate — the ability to take in more detail more quickly that results from less mental noise (persistent memory) gumming up the learning mechanism.
We need to be a smarter humanity. The way to develop intelligence better, in the educational process, is to integrate memory with its three complementary aspects of intelligence, imagination, attention, and intention. That very integration restores the sense of Mystery — something you may not have anticipated.
The deliberate dissolution of the grip of memory may call up a certain anxiety, in you. That’s evidence in you of the bias in your education and in the way our current civilization has conditioned you. That anxiety is not a sign of what should not be done; it’s a sign of exactly what should be done. The dissolution is a freeing and a relief.
You may feel that you don’t know how to do that. That’s exactly my point. You’ve been taught to memorize, memorize, memorize, but not taught how to integrate memory with the three other “suits” of intelligence that make all the difference.
Because you’re not used to the idea, it may make you anxious. But there’s nothing daunting, threatening or dangerous about it. It’s about clarity — just that.
SO, THE SUMMARY
The bias toward persistent memory that made humanity so successful has become so successful that it is pandemic and is endangering human civilization.
The enthronement of language-based learning that has made humanity so successful has deluded humanity about what is real and what is remembered or imagined.
The products of “mind and hand” that have so enhanced humanity’s survival have led to complacency and to the limitations that now so jeopardize civilization.
People need to “get it straight”.
We, the human species must now use more of our intelligence and reduce the stupidities of corporate identity, national identity, ethnic identity, and personal identity — or else the memories of our civilization may be dissolved by an onslaught of calamities, along with the human species, ourselves.
I promised you a way to get more information on the four “suits” of intelligence that must be integrated to increase the attention-refreshment rate an to open the way to intelligent change.
Here are links on-line:
The Four Universal Aspects of Intelligence: The TetraSeed
The Gold Key Release (for increasing intelligence)
This item is reprinted from Full-Spectrum Somatics, https://lawrencegoldsomatics.blogspot.com/2019/01/how-civilization-has-put-itself-in.html, by the author.
(c) COPYRIGHT 2019 Lawrence Gold