I am sure there will be great reluctance in placing industrial civilization under the heading of “cancer” without first understanding the technological system’s origins. The common perception is that technological civilization is unprecedented and that humans, by some supernatural agency, are responsible for its appearance. However, a closer examination will reveal that industrial civilization is no more than what has come before in the evolution of life, only occurring at greater size and scale.
The first system complex adaptive system developed between three components: DNA, RNA and amino acids. DNA is stored information, amino acids are the building blocks of enzymatic and structural proteins (tools) and RNA is the nexus, the connection between them. RNA is/was fully capable of self-replication, readily reproducing in the natural environment. One must infer that to some degree competition existed amongst free-living RNA with those most efficient and effective at garnering nucleic acids overwhelming less capable varieties. RNA can bind amino acids, the building blocks of cellular protein tools and structures. Upon the template of a free-living RNA there naturally exists a sequence of information composed of nucleic acids in sets of three known as a codons. Each codon can specify a single amino acid. Proteins are much more variable and capable in their abilities than the RNA templates from which they arise. A protein tool such as a polymerase could greatly enhance the reproductive capacity of any RNA coding it thereby giving it a survival advantage. Coding for and using an ancillary protein tool was the first step towards establishing the first complex adaptive system, equivalent to a human using a primitive tool such as a spear to enhance their energy gathering ability or applying paint to lips to encourage mating activity. At both the level of the RNA and the level of the individual human, tools can be built or adopted and used prior to the existence of hard copy information like DNA or the various human exosomatic storage media.
RNA is a molecule with the ability to bond to protein/tool building blocks and nucleic acid/information building blocks, just as humans are able to manipulate both information and the varied building blocks of tools. RNA can be transcribed into DNA and vice versa. DNA is a more stable version of RNA and is therefore serves as a stable long-term repository of information to be stored in the nucleus of each cell, a fabulous way to maintain tool specifications generation to generation so that beneficial mutations could accumulate. DNA is read by having an RNA molecule built upon it, a necessary step since DNA cannot directly participate in tool construction. mRNA is then read by other transfer RNA (tRNA) that bring building block amino acids for tool assembly. Long after an mRNA has reached the end of its useful life, DNA will still maintain its integrity being read again and again. The long lasting information (DNA) codes for amino acid, tools, messengers, and structural elements.
To reemphasize, to create a new tool or structural element RNA will bond to (read) DNA by creating a messenger RNA (mRNA) copy that can be sent to cellular ribosomes where the mRNA can be read/translated into a tool. Each codon, three nucleic acids, codes for a single amino acid and amino acids are added one by one to construct a tool or structural element useful to the cell. Tools greatly magnify the resources and energy that can be taken from the environment, otherwise the energy expensive DNA library and fabrication system would not exist. For a complex adaptive system (CAS) to exist there must be three ingredients 1) information, 2) an intermediary and 3) tools. The fact that information exists means that it can mutate and evolve to give tools of varying capacities and efficiencies in their relative functions. The first complex adaptive system is that composed of cells with the three key components of DNA, RNA and assembled amino acid tools. At first there were freely reproducing RNA, then RNA strands equipped with few tools and then enclosed cells with all three components working to extract nutrition from their environments. Once cellular enclosures (cell membranes) were complete a tool-making competition or evolution could ensue, governed by the natural rate of DNA mutation. Cells eventually became adherent and specialized, forming multicellular organisms including humans and millions of other discrete species.
Many millions of years saw the evolution of millions of body plans and forms, some using their tools to obtain energy from sunlight, while other predatory organisms arranged themselves in such a way as to feed upon the primary producers. A complex and stable ecosystem could arise due to a similar rate of mutation amongst all cells. No organism could gain a significant advantage over others, the organisms co-evolved into the many diverse forms, some now extinct. Homo sapiens evolved in this competitive environment and was unable to dominate other life forms and therefore existed, sometimes precariously, in balance with all other species. But Homo sapiens, would soon escape the limitations of the DNA/RNA/amino acid system. Homo sapiens would evolve to initiate the second complex adaptive system. For many millions of years human ancestors were simply variations of cells competing on an even footing with all other multi-cellular organisms, bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoans. The human cells operated within complex adaptive system one, reading DNA information and creating the protein tools needed by the cell to process energy and many other functions. Inside your body at this moment the RNA within you cells are facilitating the production of tools continuously, their diagram equivalents taken from the DNA library. But a confluence of evolutionary adaptations including, but not limited to increasingly innervated hands capable of feeling and manipulating things in their environment, bipedalism to free the hands, organs of communication, binocular vision and the expanding neural tissue within the cranium all served to work together to pull Homo sapiens into complex adaptive system II, a system in which man finds himself, like RNA, the nexus between information and tools.
The human path to complex adaptive system II (CAS II) was basically the same as the path taken by RNA in the first complex adaptive system. At first humans were freely-reproducing entities, unaided by tools, they made use of those structures configured by cells such as canines, hands, and jaws. The next step, due largely to well-developed hands and relatively advanced brains was the adoption of tools from the environment, a stick that fit nicely in the hand and that could be swung. In this emerging CAS II the impressions held in the human brain were equivalent to the coding sequence of an mRNA. The primitive human had everything the RNA had, an information sequence in the form of an impression in the brain and a hand serving as bonding organ. The human bonding organ, for grasping and rearranging things in the environment is for the most part more capable in bonding a variety of shapes than RNA’s ability to bond amino acids.
For instance, based upon a template of information held within a primitive human’s brain, the hand can readily assemble the tool just as an RNA can assemble a cellular tool made of amino acids. To start, the human hand and controlling brain would not have evolved the fine coordination necessary for very fine manipulations, not to speak of the further evolution in the information processing and information coding areas of the brain. It was not until the spoken phonetic language could be translated into a visual symbol (letters) that the information could be recorded in a hard copy through precise movements of the hand facilitated by neural associations between visual and auditory areas of the brain. Once information was recorded on cave walls, hieroglyphics, letters, and diagrams it could be read back into the brain for consideration, mutation and change to advance the efficiency and efficacy of associated tools. Less practical historical recordings and descriptions coexist with human tool and structure information, due to the verbal conveyance of past events and the nature of the human brain that often uses the past as a template for the future. Verbal description could result in a tool, but precise tools awaited the establishment of modern standards and mathematics. Today, humans have recorded all kinds of descriptions, tool specifications, and so on on paper and on various types of electronic media. The human “RNA” only need “bond” with some information and then using appropriate materials proceed to their work table to let their hands carry forth with tool construction. Like the ribosomal workstations in cells, humans may also use complex tools made of many sub-component tools in building new components.
Humans are indeed special, as special as the first RNAs that evolved into complex adaptive system one, but you should also be aware that there are inherent dangers in having two complex adaptive systems operating at the same time. The risk is that the second system (CAS II) in its exuberance for unlimited growth, will apply its tools relentlessly against the first system (CAS I) in an attempt to achieve its impossible goals. Perhaps because humans have evolved to become the pivotal component in CAS II, they no longer recognize nor desire the connection to the system that gave birth to them (CAS I), even though their lives depend upon it. Humans naturally see themselves as technological even though they are still fully organic and dependent upon the ecosystem for their existence. When you add to this the fact that human RNA are free to competitively reproduce and seek growth far in excess of the ecosystem’s capacity to host them, then instead of a perpetually sustainable civilization, we have a cancer that grows to a terminal outcome. How did RNA in the first complex adaptive system survive? For one, by using inexhaustible, recyclable, naturally occurring and flowing resources and energy inputs and by allowing reproduction of only enough RNA and related cells necessary to fulfill a body plan that could compete and maintain homeostasis in the natural environment. Eventually in the case of organic life, by various feedback loops, the cells and the RNA are eventually controlled by their own tools to result in a competitive society of cells.
Human’s civilization, on the other hand, have not yet evolved any reproductive control mechanisms except for some tools meant to hinder conception, and have absolutely no economic growth control in mind. CAS II is malignant in relation to CAS I.
Because humans have an open-ended neurological reward system, that is they are not easily satisfied, and have been released from the ecosystem by their technological capacity, it is likely that they will be unable to establish the controls necessary to survive. The ecosystem will likely unravel like the physiology of a terminal cancer patient. The idea that humans could evolve long enough in technological society for controls to become viable through education is beyond reasonable since the subconscious desires and urges are rarely amenable to good sense and voluntary modification, although quitting addictive behaviors is possible for some.
As human numbers swell, urbanization continues, but only because the industrial/technological infrastructure serves as a conduit for consumption/reward opportunities. The overall goal is to raise “living standards” for all humans by putting them on the receiving end of a consumptive system and by putting the technological tools of harvest and production in their hands. As many siphons tap into the flow of energy and resources as it is apportioned throughout the distribution system, the damage is multiplied. Even today politicians call for more growth into pristine, undeveloped areas.
The unambiguously cancerous technological lesions grow exponentially creating damage throughout the ecosystem. Humans, ensconced in their temporary technological shells, have come to believe that they are protected by the relatively favorable condition of their new technological system. But in reality they have chosen to take safe harbor within the infrastructure of a growing malignancy that will continue to offer the illusion of wellness even as the ecosystem weakens and can no longer support the mass of metastatic, tumorous tissue. The diagnosis for our ecosystem is terminal malignancy. Without rapid and decisive changes, the prognosis is for near term ecosystem collapse and termination of industrial civilization.
COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS
- Dynamic and evolving energy-using relationships comprised of three components: information, intermediary (RNA/humans), and tools.
There are currently only two known complex adaptive systems: 1) Cellular – involving DNA(information), RNA(intermediary) and Enzymes/Proteins(Tools) and 2) Technological – involving Bytes/Print (information), Humans(intermediary) and many materials, but signature use of metals (Tools).
Tools – Products of the interaction between the intermediary (RNA, humans) using information/diagrams and environmental materials. Tools are meant to give greater leverage in acting upon the environment in the acquisition of energy/resources and assembly of components and internally with metabolic controls and assembly of infrastructure.
Intermediary (RNA, humans) – An entity capable of bonding with both information and the materials used to make tools. and creating a connection between information and the resources specified by that information.
Information – A image of tools or structural elements that the intermediary (humans, RNA) are capable of reading and translating into effective tools and structural elements.
Complex Adaptive System I: DNA – RNA – Enzymes/Structural Proteins
Complex Adaptive System II: Bytes/Print – Humans – Multiplicity of tools/structural components
The evolution which is inherent to the manipulation and rearrangement of information is expressed as tools with varying efficiencies and capabilities. Both DNA and human information evolve in the pursuit of competitive advantage.
The complex adaptive systems started without dedicated, stored information.
First Step: RNA (freely reproducing, no information, no tools.)
Humans (freely reproducing, no information, no tools.)
RNA – Enzymes (Enzymes coded directly from RNA).
Humans – Tools (Primitive stone/wood tools, no representation in information.)
Third Step: Tools – RNA – DNA (DNA created from RNA template)
Tools – Humans – Information (Information created from neural template.)
Just as a human factory must earn a profit using information, humans and tools, the cell must also earn a profit by using DNA, RNA and proteins. The energy used to build and operate the CAS must not exceed the amount of energy it is able to obtain throughout its lifespan. Many specialized areas of a complex adaptive system are highly specialized in their production and are unable to produce the tools necessary to obtain energy from the environment and are therefore provided for by those cells and tissues that are solely involved in obtaining energy. Likewise the cells specialized in obtaining energy could not function without the other specializations existing within the society/organism.
Just as societies are conglomerates of businesses employing different information and tools to produce a profit, so too are organisms conglomerates of cells employing different information and tools to produce an overall profit.
Free-living cells and organisms have found ways to reproduce themselves by fission and even organisms can reproduce the entire order of their society-equivalent bodies to replace worn and damaged ones. In the short-term human factories can reproduce themselves, but human societies have found no way and no need to compress all societal information into a single sperm/egg so that through the ontological process of growth, a mature society can be arrived at in a very short period of time by skipping anachronistic states of maturity. The human society would need to save all of the information coming from all the factories and tools etc. but since society is a singular cancer, it has no reason, resources or ability to reproduce itself. It is a one time phenomenon that cannot undergo natural selection, even as each quasi-speciated nation tries to apply selection pressure to the others, because of the incredible damage done by uncontrolled growth and associated damages. Just one more technological generation in any way resembling the present civilization, would likely finish-off the habitat of most multicellular organisms. Most larger organisms are supported by a pyramid of progressively larger forms and are dependent upon a healthy base to obtain nutrition. If the base of the pyramid becomes damaged and/or collapses, everything above the point of collapse will disappear. Technology will not offer any remedies or protection.
Translation Tool Building at Ribosome
In the graphic above you see a strand of mRNA and tRNA assembling a protein within an intracellular ribosomal factory. Amino acids (resources) are put in order according to the mRNA information and an enzyme is born, with further processing down the line. Humans in a factory would obtain information-specified materials just as tRNA bonds amino acids and assembles them according to an mRNA template. Typically cells use only 23 amino acids to construct most of their tools. Humans have been much less limited in the variety of inputs to their system, not without some very negative consequences for the organic world.
These humans are at work in a machine shop with each machine and human being equivalent to a ribosome (RNA-protein combination), creating finished tools or product. Humans can both bond materials with their hands just as a tRNA grabs amino acids and assemble them in the correct order by examining a set of instructions or equivalent template.
This is a graphic of a typical eukaryotic animal cell. You can see the information library within the nucleus, the pink area. The purple area around the nucleus is the rough endoplasmic reticulum and upon these membranes are located many of the ribosomal units where ribosomsal RNA-protein complexes assemble tools or proteins to be used throughout the cell or for export into the surrounding tissue or circulation. The cell is equivalent to a human factory. At the Golgi apparatus the product is readied for cellular export. The pink organelles are mitochondria and serve to turn the sugar glucose into ATP in a manner similar to an oil refinery producing finished gasoline. The ATP molecule is burned perhaps one or a few at time to give some needed change in shape or motion of an enzyme tool. The energetic equivalent of ATP, gasoline, also changes the conformation of an engine’s components, sending it down the road. Part of ATP is recyclable as is CO2 through plants.
Homo erectus Model by John Gurche, Photgraph by Tim Evanson
A reconstruction of a predecessor of modern humans, Homo erectus, a social hominid that likely utilized a few tools, perhaps a spear and possessed some spoken language or sign language. It would have been at the second step (tools not yet represented symbolically outside the neural tissue) on the way to becoming a functioning complex adaptive system. With the assistance of the pre-motor cortex of the human brain, and observing the motions of others making tools, the tool-making skills could be passed from generation to generation without exo-neural information. At this stage Homo erectus was already well on its way to becoming modern man, a functioning component of a new complex adaptive system.
Human Brain at Autopsy
Even though the human brain has rapidly evolved to utilize information, it does not do so efficiently or in a manner useful to the functioning of technological society. A long period of schooling is necessary to prepare the human RNA to become an effective member of the complex adaptive system. Speaking seems to come naturally, but reading and writing information requires training for many years to master the process of recording information and reading information while a generalized model of “reality” is also built within the memory. It is no accident that this organ, the brain, has expanded so rapidly, it is the nexus for the many abilities and organs necessary to function as a complex adaptive system. In the left prefrontal cortex there is a section removed to show the white matter, the equivalent of wiring, coated with organic insulation. Most of the thinking and memory occurs at the surface of the pink area, the cerebral cortex or gray matter, thinking that would be impossible without having disparate parts of the cortex wired together. You can see by the folds in the brain that it’s all packed very tightly even as our craniums have expanded. Ideas are translated into words which are phonetically represented by letter symbols which are easily written down and recorded. An alphabet code can represent many aspects of reality, but is not exact enough for a CAS to make complex tools with regularity. The creation of tools with factory precision and repeatability would await further developments in mathematics, standards and information storage.
Even with the expanded information processing of the cerebral cortex, the human RNA would not be complete without the very capable bonding organ known as the hand. Fortunately, with bipedal locomotion, the hand was available for further development in both sensory ability and dexterity. As with cellular RNA, it is not enough just to read and manipulate information, the resources must be grabbed by transfer RNA and assembled on an mRNA template. In the picture above is a sensory homunculus and the larger the body part the more relative representation it has in the brain. You can see that the hands are massive due to their relatively great representation within the brain. This is because they are the bonding organ. Coupled with three-dimensional binocular vision, I can only surmise that the hands became incredibly important as bonding organs in the evolution towards our status as a complex adaptive system. The precise electromagnetic bonding seen with RNA at the biochemical level is unnecessary with human scale material acquisition and assembly as different forces, like gravity, predominate. Generally speaking, human hands are much more versatile in their bonding ability than rather specific molecular bonding found within the cell.
Homunculi (notice giant hands)
In the Classroom by P.L. Martin des Amoignes 1886
The process of education is a time and energy intensive regimen but in order to function in the technological complex adaptive system the human brain must be trained within educational factories. Reading, writing and arithmetic are taught until complex information and plans can be read and translated into the appropriate tool or finished product. Most schooling is meant to prepare humans for their roles within the factories in the fabrication and assembly of products. The “school” is an evolved feature of the second complex adaptive system that is supposed to pay productive dividends and allow citizens to function adequately within their technological environment. The school is a specialized factory. RNA’s function is likely inherent to is structure with no further “schooling” necessary.
New York City – 1919 – by Joseph A. Eaton
The structures built by the human technological complex adaptive system even resemble their microscopic-scale cellular counterparts although made of steel, brick, wood and other materials and equipped with translucent widows, thermo-regulation, communication, energy supply, and waste removal. They serve the same purpose as the cell, providing protection and enclosure for the main activities of maintaining information and turning it into useful tools/structures. These cities spring up like great concrete and steel plaques upon the land as the energy of fossil fuels is converted into more and more technological tissue. Even with a storehouse of fossil fuels, the scale of this malignancy will exhaust its supply of energy and many other resources in only a few centuries. What remains today to be economically converted is less than has already been converted into standing infrastructure and metabolic activity.
Man Using Chainsaw in the Forest
The variety of tools made by technological man are impressive and one of the primary activities within society is engineering more and improved tools and tool-making processes. This RNA/tool complex is harvesting wood material external to the technological cells. It will be used to either build new cells in the ever expanding growth or be burned to provide heat. This RNA/human is also equipped with protective accessories including hard hat, ear protection and gloves. More effective tools are not really needed at this point as the ones currently in existence are more than adequate for eating and destroying the entirety of the ecosystem.
U.S. Armed Forces Sniper in Afghanistan
This RNA/tool complex intends to stop foreign RNA/tool complexes from accessing disputed resources. Strange how a differences in symbols or barriers of language are adequate reasons for lethal competition amongst malignant growths. But chainsaws and rifles are not the most complex tools created by society. The motherboard below can be used to create and control other technologies like the Minuteman Missile.
Motherboard (complex tool)
Minuteman III ICBM Blasting Off
This is rather more complex tool of technological society which requires numerous human RNA, tool-complexes and stored information for its use. Many hundreds of thousands of hours of study and science went into creating this tool and its sub-components, which is meant to protect territory and resources from other societies in a MAD sort of way. The evolution of such weapons could not have happened without an unprecedented amount of net energy provided by the rapid burning of fossil fuels.
A close examination of our systems reveals a significant problem.
Anatomische les door Dokter van der Meer van Michiel en Pieter van Mierevelt
It seems to the trained eye that the ecosystem suffers from something potentially life-threatening – malignant cancer. Are these liver tumors or city lights seen from space at night?
Ignoring the greater context of its environment, technological life in its endless quest for growth, threatens to damage the biosphere’s physiology and anatomy and eliminate much of life and itself. An anomalous terminal cancer, derived from the biosphere, freed from previous natural controls (disease and famine) and determined to grow and live forever. We seem to be in a sensual competition to see can feel best about reaching the extinction finish line first.
Another misfortune is the fact that technological humans have availed themselves of an energy source whose combustion products are life-threatening. Burning fossil fuels and releasing CO2 is changing the physiology of the biosphere much faster than the ecosystem can adapt. In addition, human civilization has been lured into an evolutionary dead-end based upon infrastructure useful only in exploiting a proximally finite resource. The end of extraction of energetically profitable fossil fuels is in site and, like an organism overly specialized to feed upon a narrow range of increasingly scarce species, we seem unable to alter our course. Will we be a self-limiting cancer due to a lack of the black glucose to fill our arterial pipelines or will we hunt the fossil fuels to extinction and exhale enough CO2 to collapse the ecosystem? The necessary economic retrenchment is counter to our innate insatiable reward system and is therefore difficult in not impossible to implement on a voluntary basis.
Eastern Wyoming Coal Train photographed by Greg Goebel