IX. Technology of Perspective: Introduction
The relationship between culture technology and evolution
Where most animals may die or survive purely on the basis of their strength, speed, or stealth, humans are among those who have established themselves on this planet due to a complexity that allows the use of cooperation and tools which in turn augments our natural strengths and weaknesses. The extent to which we survive or thrive then is no longer a measure of physical fitness, and technology has become an indispensable factor in mediating our relationship with reality. Modern humans are not genetically very different from our pre-modern forebears, and so what has evolved in that time to explain the difference in how we live is our technologies and our cultures.
This book is part of a project concerned with where evolution and culture meet. It is an infrastructure of ideas, a technology of perspective designed to upload a “mutation” into the cultural genome.
In the context of evolution, mutation represents a rolling of the dice, a species’ “attempt” to improve its odds for survival. But unlike as the case may be with genes, the mutation this project is pursuing is not random.
Within this process, “The Truths We Live” represent cultural blind spots that, prior to a moment of cultural self-realization, result in a sense of reality, inevitability, to things that a different lens can reveal to be: situational, optional.
One of the premises of this project is that our society’s conflicts, our inability to balance productivity with the well-being of everyone who contributes to it, the inability to protect the environment for future generations, the loss of faith in our political process or economic order, are not issues resulting from inadequate technology, in its traditional sense, nor inadequate research, inadequate information, but are an outgrowth of a largely invisible crisis of perspective.
In a selfish culture, someone who is naturally very intelligent may be more likely to become successful through ignoring all consequences of his actions besides immediate gain to himself.
In a warlike culture, technologies, regardless of the intent behind their construction will be adapted for the purposes of war.
Part of the reason our responses to environmental degradation are inadequate, part of the reason our society is becoming more polarized, and yet despite perhaps the highest standards of living in history, depression addiction and escapism run rampant is that all of our strategies, all of our technologies are projected through the matrix of arrogance, exclusion and convenience that coincided, yes, with this degree of progress, but which are also bringing us closer to social, environmental, and political breaking points. You might build a machine for peace, but it will be used according to the patterns of its society, the flows of money, the prevailing sense of necessity.
The innovation that will turn us from the steady creep of destruction will not be something built by a machine, it will be a shift in how we see, a shift in the extent to which we are capable of reflecting on the relationship between how we organize the world in our minds and what we do in it.
Where do evolution and culture meet? Can we take processes that are automatic, and consciously reorganize our system of knowing so that we can see more clearly, act more meaningfully?
Culture is like genes, the codes we inherit that shape our relationship to reality, and evolution represents the process by which the code would be refined. But unlike our DNA, how we see is not adaptive. Unconsciously we gate and manage the information we encounter to conform to our present reality, which is shaped and conditioned long before we are capable of understanding that conditioning.
Can culture evolve from an arbitrary closed assortment of truths, toward a process, an open system directed to ever increasing well-being? Can culture evolve to see how it hides, has hidden, the feedback our unconscious truths have been receiving from reality?