OS Homo Sapiens 2.0: New Human Software Coming Soon?

2011•05•30 Gregory Trencher University of Tokyo

The core vision of the United Nations Our World 2.0 research community is simple and brimming with hope. If we are to successfully overcome the potentially catastrophic consequences posed by the simultaneous threats of climate, oil, food and biodiversity crises, we must upgrade and build a better, more collaborative world.

This is a vision shared by many individuals, corporations, NGOs and governments around the globe and the response so far has been an intense focus on the development of technological solutions — or ‘hardware’.

Renewable energy is one such example. In fact so great has been this pursuit of ‘hardware’ for a low-carbon, sustainable society that humanity is now in an extremely fortunate position. Should we choose to do so, we could supply, by 2050, up to 80% of the world’s energy needs with renewables.

Considering that solutions to the climate crisis are within an arm’s reach, it is hard to comprehend how we as a species have failed to date in our attempts to respond to a threat that some believe has put a question mark over the entire future of humanity. For those who reject the idea that we are ‘failing’, it is worth pointing out a few sobering facts here.

Firstly, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiation processes over the past few years have failed to secure a post-Kyoto treaty capable of bringing about the massive cuts in emissions by 2020 required to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change. In fact, the current aggregated reduction pledges from both industrialised and developing nations seem likely to result in a scorching 4.1 degrees increase in global temperatures by 2100.

“Reports from the climate science community are becoming more and more striking each year. The more we know, the worse it gets.”

Drained glacier dammed meltwater lake reveals walls of blue ice. Near Helheim Glacier, Southeast Greenland. © Henrik Egede Lassen/Alpha Film

Secondly, reports from the climate science community are becoming more and more striking each year. The more we know, the worse it gets. One recently released report from the Oslo-based Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, for example, tells us that seas are set to rise over the next century by a further 0.9-1.6 metres. With such significant damage now programmed into the oceans, it will not only be small island states like Tuvalu and Nauru about which humanity must be concerned.

Software, not hardware

In light of this failure to divert from our path of ecological and potential self-destruction, surely it seems unreasonable, therefore, to keep blaming our ‘hardware’. Clive Hamilton and Dianne Dumanoski are two critics who argue that what we have incorrectly labelled as a ‘climate’ and ‘environmental’ crisis is in fact an external manifestation of an intellectual crisis at the heart of our modern civilisation.

Both of these authors assert that the root cause of our difficulties lies in our view of reality. They contend that our shared worldview — based upon principals such as atomistic or mechanical materialism, duality, anthropocentrism, separateness and reductionism — has been heavily shaped by outdated scientific insights that formed the catalyst for the Scientific Revolution approximately 300 years ago. In other words, our crisis is one of software and not hardware.

The logic behind this contention is simple. As well as serving as a guide and justifying certain courses of action, our shared view of reality and the universe also influences our beliefs and values. As a species, over thousands of years we have understandably sought better lives through economic and social development.

However, in modern times we have focused our values on material gain and economic growth to the point where we are unable to choose an alternative course of action, even when faced with the knowledge that the global economy is in the process of devouring the very physical space in which it operates.

The seeds of a new consciousness

Yet, amid this time of economic unease and ecological devastation, there are increasing signs that an alternative paradigm is emerging — one based upon principles of consciousness, spirit, oneness or non-duality, interconnectedness and holism.

Many individuals, corporations and scientific institutions around the globe are beginning to move away from the worldview that has characterised humanity’s rocky relationship with Mother Earth since the Scientific Revolution.

It is surprising to see that some leading thinkers are actually excited and able to draw meaning from our plight. Australian climate change campaigner Tim Flannery is of the view that the human species is in the process of evolving into a ‘super organism’ where the citizens of the globe will eventually abandon notions of nationality and national interest and function in an organised and collective way, as can be observed in ant communities for instance.

This is a fortunate observation as the environmental and global challenges threatening our civilisation are so great that they cannot be solved by one nation or group of people.

This vision of an emerging ‘global tribe’ is of course commonly found through online initiatives including this inspiring short film available at the Global Oneness Project.

In this transition to a global species the ecological and societal upheavals that we are currently witnessing could be a necessary part of that evolution. As Dr. Robert Atkinson from the Institute of Noetic Sciences, another proponent of this view, points out “…the crises we are facing are essential to the process. They are evolutionary drivers, accelerating our spiritual development.”

One aspect of this change relates to our identity with traditional political entities such as nation-states. More and more individuals, particularly ‘digital natives’ are moving away from notions of belonging to a particular nation or group and identifying themselves as global citizens. In fact, World Public Opinion.org has found that 34% of people aged between 18-29 now define themselves as global citizens.

In an age where 700,000 new facebook users register each day, we can assume that this process will no doubt be fuelled by a further expansion of the Internet, international trade and exchange.

Oneness of humans and the universe

The idea that all human beings are essentially one compliments the notion that we need to start viewing events and phenomena holistically. This shift of awareness away from separateness and reductionism can be observed in many scientific fields such as biology and ecology. In these disciplines, scientific analysis until now has typically focused on certain populations or parts of entire eco-systems of which the results are then fused together in order to give an explanation for the whole.

Yet, as physicist Fritjof Capra has been documenting since the early 1980s, the idea of an independent organism or independent physical entity in nature has become problematic. This is based upon the observation that the seemingly separate entities making up entire eco-systems are, in reality, highly complex, interconnected and self-organising networks of energy and matter.

This awareness has led to a paradigm shift in scientific enquiry and the long overdue acknowledgement of the Aristotelian truth that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

This systemic view leads to the conclusion that all life on Earth is interconnected, interdependent and part of a larger biosphere. In fact it is this notion that forms that the core of James Lovelock’s Gaia theory. In this alternative vision of reality, the modernist notion of a dead Earth is replaced by that of a living planetary organism. By doing so, it offers the view that we humans are also citizens of the biotic community.

As a result of this shift of awareness in contemporary science, wisdom found within like-minded worldviews of countless indigenous peoples, that envisions all life as one, takes on credibility from the view of Western science.  All life forms, including humans, become an indispensable element of a living whole, which does have a purpose — that of maintaining the life-supporting balance of the entire planet.

This philosophy reminds us that all elements on Earth, from ants to oceans, from bacteria to elephants, are sacred and that they do have value. As pointed out by Lovelock himself, “when we eliminate one of these from Earth, we may have destroyed a part of ourselves, for we also are a part of Gaia”.

Re-defining the building blocks of the universe

The belief that nature consists of nothing more than dead-matter conforming to mechanical laws has long been challenged from the perspective of leading hard scientists. 1918 Nobel Prize winning quantum physicist Max Planck (1858-1947), regarded as one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, was one of the first to articulate this paradigm shift in the hard sciences. He spoke of a “conscious and intelligent mind” that brings the particles of an atom to vibration and then holds them together, referring to this mind as the “matrix of all matter”.

This notion has been further developed in recent times by the Unified Field Theory.  According to quantum physicist John Hagelin, this theory has succeeded in identifying “a single, universal field of intelligence in Nature” from which all of the laws of the universe originate.

In this quantum challenge to the modern worldview, all matter is just the physical reflection of a universal ocean of intelligence and consciousness. It is consciousness that forms the most basic building blocks of the universe. In other words, the physical world can no longer be considered a simple lump of matter and motion as advocated by the mechanical and materialistic view of modern science.

System upgrade required

Over the past 250 years, industrialised society has become intoxicated by the materialistic worldview of modern science and built our entire civilisation and identity on an incomplete and hazardous understanding of reality. The result of this failure to see the interconnectedness and aliveness in our world has been a relentless pursuit of economic ‘progress’ through individual and nationalistic behaviour. Worse still, we have even allowed this to define our individual and collective ‘happiness’.

‘Operating System (OS) Homo Sapien’ is in desperate need of an upgrade. As long as international climate negotiations are founded upon the interests of individual nations, they will be doomed to failure. As long as we interpret reality only through the materialistic lens of modern science, any damage done to the natural world in the aim of improving or maintaining our material existence will be justified. The economy will always take priority over the environment.

Although still in the process of inventing itself, the snippets of a new vision of reality outlined in this article could possibly form a new human intelligence to guide our collective actions and decisions throughout the 21st century.

Most importantly, this view of reality is offering us the precious chance to reconciliate the great divide between mind and matter and ‘re-enchant’ the physical world from which modern science snatched away any notion of inner life. In a world where Nature was considered as alive and possessing intrinsic value, the continued destruction of the Earth’s environment in the name of economic progress would be considered wrong. As such, this new interpretation of our terrestrial existence has much potential to justify the rescuing of the Earth’s climate and eco-systems.

It is no small event that some of the most eminent scientists on Earth are beginning to articulate a new vision of a living, interconnected planet and human species.

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OS Homo Sapiens 2.0: New Human Software Coming Soon? by Gregory Trencher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Author

Gregory Trencher

University of Tokyo

Gregory Trencher was previously an intern for the Education for Sustainable Development Programme at UNU Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama, Japan. He is currently researching the potential of research universities to address the climate and sustainability crisis as part of a Ph.D. at the Graduate Programme in Sustainability Science at the University of Tokyo. He is also director of the Environmental Learning Institute, a climate change educational initiative for Japanese businesses and corporations.

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  • http://satoyamaspirit.org Alan Zulch

    “It is no small event that some of the most eminent scientists on Earth are beginning to articulate a new vision of a living, interconnected planet and human species.”

    And I would say that it is no small event that Our World 2.0 – with its well-deserved reputation for integrity and excellence in research and reporting – is publishing this article. Indeed, I feel it is quite a watershed moment as it suggests a milestone has been passed. Discussions of worldview and oneness are now appearing in a UN publication and are thus being recognized on the global stage as critical factors alongside and in relationship with – but not replacing – the criticality of contemporary science.

    I’m reminded of Thomas Kuhn’s classic book, “Structures of Scientific Revolutions,” in which he coined the term “paradigm shift” and laid out how such revolutions in thinking and perception play out. It would seem to me that we’re right on track in a major shift unfolding right now.

    Kudos to OW2.0 and the UN for publishing this important piece.

  • Shayne

    I would highly recommend David Korten’s book The Great Turing which also articulates at lot of is said here but goes into more detail. His new book Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth is also an important book for our time.

  • Greg Trencher

    Thank to you both for your comments, encouragement and valuable
    references!

    Although not mentioned in this article, a dramatic paradigm shift appears also to
    be taking place in numerous fields such neuroscience and psychology. This shift
    in many ways mirrors some of the properties of the ‘new’ or should we say ‘forgotten’
    vision of reality described above. Some of the proponents of this worldview are
    participating in a huge international conference known as ‘Science and Non Duality’.

    http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/

    It may be that these speakers are all giving us an insight into how the homo sapiens
    of tomorrow will think and process reality!

  • marysaunders

    Tenders of curly willows can be paid by tree trimmers, who use the trimmings to grow new trees.  We have models for value-adding and regeneration.  We will get around to making our world more treed and more beautiful.

    • Gregtrencher

      Yes, I do recall the tree-trimmers who used to come around for clippings and actually payed us for their troubles! We do have so many models of sustainable development right under our noses, thats for sure. Here in Tokyo for example, the city is scattered with small urban farms that are mostly organic or partly so. The food is sold usually on the spot, direct to locals. They are little treasure coves of sustainability and we should be doing everything we can to preserve them and stop the ‘developers’ from moving in. I also hear you about planting more trees. I am a monthly donator to a tree planting project in Tanzania. For a small amount of money, locals are employed to plant and care for their surroundings. Its a great model for carbon offsetting in the rich world.

  • christopherdoll

    What is v2.0 about this?
    Budhism but especially Taoism both espouse such ideals. Rather, this seems to be a circuitous route for Western thinking to converge on something that Eastern philosophy figured out some time ago.

    In that regard, it sounds like the Empathetic Civilization, where a path from
    tribal to religious to nation-state identity is explained. Ultimately
    we are homo-empathicus; we have a need to belong and this is all we
    have come up with so far. I imagine that internet social networks will
    be the next step in this evolution massively allowing people to discover
    others from abroad based around common interests. The end point is an empathy that extends to the entire biosphere.

    Why did two systems of thinking which came up with this centuries ago get outcompeted? If it is due to their lack of evangelism, can this evolution happen quick enough to collectively address sustainability?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

  • Gregtrencher

    Hi Chris, thanks very much for your comments. I am a great fan of this video
    that you have posted as a matter of fact. I especially love the way that it uses illustrations to help convey such a wealth of complex ideas.

    Yes, I agree. What is desperately needed here is a human psyche that identifies
    with itself with the greater biosphere and all life forms. As long as we feel
    that we are spiritually separate from the physical world around us, it us hard to
    see us being able to philosophically justify the decision to make the rescuing
    of the Earth’s eco-systems a top priority for human kind.

    It is also sad to think that although there are still peoples and tribes alive
    on all continents sharing an empathy towards the biosphere and other life forms,
    for the most part they are marginalised and continuously subject to pressure
    from the modern model of ‘development’. The people of the Rift Valley, or the North
    American Indians come to mind, for example.

    I also agree. Social software and NGO networks like AVAAZ.org are surely playing
    a huge role in sowing the seeds of a collective vision and global race that shares a common
    ideal. I am incidentally a great fan and sincere supporter of
    AVAAZ.org!