We Have Been Captured by a CAS
Man has always been subject to his beliefs, ideas, and various passions. This is both good and bad – but inevitable: that is just the way we are. But now we have met up with something more than our equal: a CAS (Complex Adaptive System), that has incorporated us into it. We have been captured by a system more powerful than us – and made to serve it.
This may strike you as pure poppy-cock – not worthy of further thought, but do not dismiss me lightly, I think I am on to something.
This process has been going on ever since the late 19 Century – with the result that things are now in control. This is not a new idea: it has been obvious to many. But we had no idea of what these things were – or most importantly: how they were organized.
We had no idea they could organize themselves – a startling new idea made clear by a whole new field of inquiry that studies Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). What these scientists have discovered is far more important than the discovery of sub-atomic particles, interesting as this is (at least to them). It is a discovery of how much of the universe works: as complex systems composed of many diverse, interrelated agents that are constantly evolving.
Before, scientists intuited this was the case, but complexity was not something they wanted to tackle: they didn’t have the tools for the job – especially the intellectual tools. And they were not used to the broad, interdisciplinary cooperation that is required to tackle a subject this huge. Now they, the cream of the crop, are hard at work on at – notably at the Santa Fe Institute – which you will be hearing about later, if you have your ear to the ground.
What is blocking the advancement of mankind into this new frontier? Mankind itself, which has been so successful in adapting to this new system, that it has eliminated itself from the equation.
This is nothing new, men have always been adept at adopting themselves to power structures, usually hierarchical ones. And the lengths they will go to serve them has always been amazing. Man has always adapted itself to power, but this power was always man-made. But this power is not man-made: it comes from without, from a CAS.
I know this is too much for you to grasp, so let’s back off for a moment and look at entirely man-made CASs – such as the various group identities we have always lived under. We have usually believed these were formed by powerful supernatural forces – such as the gods – when it was clear to any objective observer that we had made these ourselves. To use the language of Complexity: these organizations emerged from human life automatically. This is one of the characteristics of CASs – a truly fascinating subject: they automatically self-organize themselves into more complex structures.
Life itself is the prime example: atoms organized themselves into molecules, which organized themselves into cells, which organized themselves into organisms, etc. There was no outside intelligence doing this – they just did it themselves, out of their own internal intelligence. But the result was something amazing.
But this was nothing: beginning in the late 19th Century, man was adding to the mix, making powerful things at an ever accelerating pace. And these things have taken over – making as one of their objectives the elimination of the people who made them. And they have succeeded. We have become reproductive organs and power structures (engines) for them.
Here again, I have probably gotten ahead of you; let me back up again. Consider the effect of the automobile on America, the nation that has most successfully adapted to them. I was amazed the last time I was there by all the new super-highways: the most expensive structures ever built by man – but overloaded as soon at they are built, by all the people eager to use their cars on them – who come flocking in from everywhere.
In short, we have turned ourselves over the the automobile – completely – which continues to demand more. We don’t see this, we only see ourselves enhanced by all this steel and rubber in motion – but it doesn’t take a genius to see what is really going on: the automobile is using us to its advantage. We are serving it.
Stepping back a notch, and getting the larger view: things have organized themselves into systems where we are subordinate players. We are so busy serving them we don’t have time for ourselves – exactly what they want.
And people think this is wonderful. We visited with a relative back in the Midwest the last time I was back home. They live on a lovely farm just outside a small town. We asked them what they did for exercise. Their answer surprised us: they drive in their new car to the nearest large town, about 30 miles away, on a superhighway, and then walk around in its air-conditioned shopping center!