The Human System

This post is being expanded. Last edit: 5/30/19

“The progress of humankind is now dependent on our ability to put aside our frustration and bitterness, to look past our short-sightedness, and to engage ourselves with the broader picture of what it means to be human—if it means anything at all.” (Home)

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An array of nebulas near NGC 1999 (about 1,500 light years away). Image credit: Mark Hanson

Premise: Human nature is a given. If it’s not something we can change, then it’s something we must use. The following axioms are assumed based on both their logical plausibility and their practical utility for the survival and flourishing of our species: (1) The mind is a system that can be reset by ideas, especially by ideas that align our emotions towards a shared purpose. (2) Nature has one purpose: existence has a tendency to exist; the mind is the highest experience of order continuing order. And (3) at the sentient level, this order is driven by love—an alignment of emotions towards one purpose: to exist, together, forever. To continue our collective being. God is love, and we are God becoming self-aware.

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View of Earth taken from the Apollo 13 spacecraft.

If you care about your friends and family, then you must care about humanity. If you cherish your home, then you must cherish your world. This is inarguable, because the science is clear: we are one species, and our existence is bound to one planet. Before long, every human being will face the same reality. Should we fail to cooperate, then we will destroy ourselves. But if we work together, guided by reason and compassion, then we can do more than save the world—we can create a world that is abundant beyond measure.

Carl Sagan: “The civilization now in jeopardy is all humanity. Here we face a critical branch point in history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet…[We should] consider in every nation major changes in the traditional ways of doing things, a fundamental restructuring of economic, political, social, and religious institutions. Fundamental changes in society are sometimes labelled impractical or contrary to human nature. But fundamental changes can clearly be made. We’re surrounded by them. In the last two centuries abject slavery which was with us for thousands of years has almost entirely been eliminated in a stirring worldwide revolution. Women, systematically mistreated for millennia, are gradually gaining the political and economic power traditionally denied them…The old appeals to racial, sexual, and religious chauvinism and to rabid nationalist fervor are beginning not to work.”

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“If humanity is to survive, then we must mobilize the intellectual community to take its place as the head of the human system. We need an agreement among the thinkers who will ultimately guide the future of our species” (Scientists & Sociopaths).

American democracy is a failed experiment, and so is the extent of our civilization. It’s time we begin a new experiment, with a new hypothesis: should our species persist as a living system, then it must behave as a living system. Its political and economic components should be redesigned to reflect, respectively, the homeostatic mechanisms (decentralized regulation with coordinated feedback control) and metabolic processes (anabolic and catabolic functions) of an organism. With our wealth and technology, we must engineer a civilization that learns and adapts—a society that seeks to maximize the mental and physical wellbeing of all its constituents. Of course, a world like this will take a transformation of culture that may seem too radical to realize. But this shift is now essential, and such a fundamental change begins with a fundamental assumption. Should we survive, then we must assume, as any living system must assume, that survival is our purpose. We are one system, the human system, and each of us is a necessary component of our unified existence.

“A new consciousness is developing which sees the earth as a single organism and recognizes that an organism at war with itself is doomed. We are one planet.” – Carl Sagan

Life is beautiful because it represents order continuing order in a universe of disorder. And for the human mind, with its intelligence and sentience, its curiosity and creativity, life represents an order that is conscious of itselfan existence that can discover its own laws, explore its own depths, and admire its own magnificence. A few cells on Earth, four billion years ago, have grown into a system that blankets the planet from the highest peak to the deepest trench, a system so powerful that it can harness the energy from an atom’s nucleus, and so aware that it knows the age of its existence and beholds its place in the cosmos. Perhaps the sapient mind, in all its presumed self-importance, is actually important. After all, consciousness represents an order—a universe—that dreams of knowing the truth about its origin. We represent an order continuing order in a universe of disorder. We are the human species, the mind of planet Earth, and we are God becoming self-aware.

“Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.” – Carl Sagan

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Imagine a sentient species aligned by one vision. Imagine an intelligent system driven by a cosmic aim. The embrace of such a reality will exalt the intellectual community and expand its innovative capacity. It will advance our pursuit of knowledge and discovery, and grow a culture of awareness that offers every mind a whole perspective and a higher purpose. It will incentivize the sustainable development of every economic market, and direct the flow of capital towards the creation of a society that is cherished by all humanity. And from this reality will come a healing that is global—a cooperation that will bring us to the stars.

“We embarked on our journey with a question first framed in the childhood of our species and in each generation asked anew with undiminished wonder: what are the stars? Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.” – Carl Sagan

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The Milky Way from Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia. Photo by Grey Chow.

But take one look at the world today, and you might think I’m crazy. You might think my ideas are too idealistic to be realistic, and maybe they are. But what else can you expect from a philosophy that claims to have found the purpose of life? Any hope of redeeming the human species will certainly need to be optimistic. Any vision that intends to transform our myopic society into a star-faring utopia will have to be idealistic. Nonetheless, idealistic does not mean impractical. Just look at religion, which has captured our species since its dawn. Our spiritual beliefs are idealistic, but they are not so impractical, because they are surely powerful. And there is no philosophy more practical than one that exploits our obsession with eternity to ensure the survival of humankind and the progression of the human mind. There is no idea more powerful than one that inspires a pride and happiness that is global, a love that extends beyond ourselves and our species to the entirety of our existence. We are God becoming self-aware—perhaps a crazy thought, but certainly one that can change the world.

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” − Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi (358.8 light years away). Image Credit & Copyright: Tom MastersonESO’s DSS

Consider the age-old question: what is the meaning of life? Think of everything that you care about—your family, your career, your education. Think about the times of joy you’ve shared with those you love, the sorrow of the hardships you’ve faced, or the frustration you’ve felt towards the injustice in our world. And consider all of human progress—the knowledge we’ve gained and the civilization we’ve built. It all seems rather meaningless when you see the smallness of Earth in the vast emptiness of space. Yet we long for our lives to mean something. So we, afraid of losing our sense of importance, have largely ignored the bigger picture that science has revealed. But here’s an idea that embraces the cosmic view while giving significance to every human experience. This may be a scientific reality—and perhaps the only reality—that makes us a relevant part of our universe. Nonetheless, my intuitions may be misled, and my conclusions could be false, or perhaps unfalsifiable. Thus, how you receive my logic and its assumptions might depend on your own intuitions—on how strongly you feel that life is meant to be preserved, and that our existence is something to be cherished.

“Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.” – Carl Sagan

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Nebula Sharpless 2-106 (2,000 light years from Earth). Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) – Source link.

In my search for meaning, I have come to this conclusion: we are meant to continue the order from which we came. Humanity has a purpose, and it is cosmic. This is why we think and feel. This is why we are driven to discover and drawn to love. With regards to the preservation of our species, this may be the most intelligent reality and the worthiest morality to be found. But as with any ontological argument, there are claims which may be difficult to accept, especially when they involve concepts as abstract as love, or as unscientific as God and purpose. So I ask everyone to examine my logic for themselves, and to find alternatives that have as much sense and utility as mine. As I said, my goal is not to make you think that I am right, but to make you think, for yourself, about your existence. Maybe like me, you’ll find that it’s something worth caring about.

“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” ― Max Planck (theoretical physicist, 1858−1947)

Given human nature, this is an idea that might unify humankind. This is the most sensible meaning to be found in our small and fragile existence, the most logical worldview that satisfies our religious intuitions, which so adamantly claim that we are more than some vain cosmic accident. This is a reason to think that we are part of something worth loving—that our existence is something worth preserving. And this is a reality that every intelligent being must realize, if its being is to be continued beyond a pale blue dot.

This is the truth, if such a truth exists.

“Truth is no harlot who throws her arms round the neck of him who does not desire her; on the contrary, she is so coy a beauty that even the man who sacrifices everything to her can still not be certain of her favors.”  Arthur Schopenhauer (philosopher, 1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

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Image source: Reddit user u/astroculv.

“We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads. But to find the truth, we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact. The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature.” – Carl Sagan

This is the end of Part 1: If Truth Exists. In the next part of my blog, One System, I will discuss the practical implications of my philosophy, assuming it’s true, for the moral and psychosocial design of sentient societies, and the political and economic structure of human civilizations. In any case, this shouldn’t be a perspective that narrows, but one that attempts to see all ideas and inspire new ones. This isn’t a fixed reality, but a logic that is open to interpretation and experimentation. Everyone should find their own meaning in life, be it in their relationships or their passions; my philosophy seeks not to replace but to solidify this meaning in the context of a greater narrative—one that embraces our humanity and sees the best in our nature. One that heals our past and ensures our future. One that brings all our narratives together. This is a story whose scope is boundless, and possibilities endless. And we have just become its Author.

“For the first time, we have the power to decide
the fate of our planet and ourselves.”
– Carl Sagan    


NEXT:   Becoming God   |   CONTENTS   |   ABOUT 
IMAGES IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MY PROPERTY. IF YOU WOULD LIKE ANY IMAGE CREDITED OR REMOVED, OR IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, OR CONCERNS, PLEASE leave a reply BELOW OR CONTACT ME AT IFTRUTHEXISTS@GMAIL.COM.

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