People stand atop houses among ruins after flooding in Johnstown, Pa., May 30, 1889. (AP Photo)

People stand atop houses among ruins after flooding in Johnstown, Pa., May 30, 1889. (AP Photo)

The emergence of complexity requires controlling the tendency towards exponential growth. The control of RNA replication must first be accomplished before the full complexity of the cell can be established. The RNA sacrifices its reproductive potential for that of the cell overall. Likewise the cell must sacrifice its reproductive potential in order for the flowering of metazoan complexity. It would seem, in keeping with this evolutionary theme, that humans must at some point give up their exponential reproductive potential to enable the persistence the complexity of technological society.

People, the RNA of the technological system, are already placed under numerous controls including laws, regulations, morality, propaganda, formal structured education, tribalism, jails, prisons, police forces and so on. But the system has not yet controlled their reproduction, something essential for maintaining order. The Chinese recently rolled-back their one child policy in a misplaced attempt to stabilize their demographics and perhaps as a temporary political move meant to pacify the population.

The incompletely controlled human metazoan finds itself in the next level of complexity – technological civilization. Other metazoans, such as the social insects have likewise formed higher order complexity. Could humans simply have  progressed within the DNA world like the ants and established purely organic societies without opening a whole new can of worms with technology? Humans had the social instinct but in my view were not well equipped with organic appendages that could access sufficient energy to solidify their organization or their survival. Instead of equipping the human with giant mandibles or some other sort of multifunctional appendage, which would still be quite limited in scope of use, evolution pushed man towards an entirely new complex adaptive system in which tools and information could conspire to open new energy sources that subsequently allowed an explosion of even more tools that could be deployed against various resource and energy gradients.

Instead of forming some specialized tool on the end of man’s arms, we instead obtained a highly flexible grasping and bonding organ that could function to build and manipulate numerous exosomatic tools like nets, axes, spears, screw drivers, wrenches, rifles. The potential is almost limitless. So instead of having a specialized organ like a curved beak of one of Darwin’s finches, we evolved a tool bonding organ, essentially an unlimited variety of beaks to suit the circumstances. It is in this way we have evolved the ability to eat almost anything. Currently our greatest value to ourselves is in working in factories building tools and/or using tools to work upon resource gradients within the environment.

Unfortunately, in the unfolding complexity of industrial civilization, competition for resources has established itself at the national level resulting largely from the  differences in language and dialect created by geographic isolation occurring in the near past. In addition, the natural human propensity to reproduce beyond replacement levels has resulted in cancerous exponential growth. Since it is quite difficult to predict the future, it is likewise difficult to define a family size large enough to meet future conditions with one or two progeny surviving. Most life reproduces to the maximum extent possible thereby increasing the odds for a favorable outcome, but this cannot occur where control is necessary as in technological societies.

Our tools are effective enough to eat and deplete all available resources and in the process undermine the basis of our existence, the levels of complexity below that of technological civilization. The technological level of evolution and competition is likely to destroy the control mechanisms at the RNA and cellular levels through toxic effluents and radioactive wastes. Cancer and mutation will be the result along with gross destruction of the ecosystem from brute assault by the technological system. Other factors including depletion of energy sources and damages resulting from climate change will directly affect and likely obliterate many of the control mechanisms that exist at the technological level, resulting in a collapse of technological civilization. In other words, with a loss of energy necessary to control populations and the stresses induced by phenomena like sea level rise and drought, the ability to impose societal systemic control will be lost and thereby much of the complexity of civilization will be lost.

The answer arrived at by politicians and their advisors seems to be one of  beefing-up surveillance and police force to maintain “law and order”, but without controlling human reproduction, curbing toxic by-products, reigning-in exponential economic growth and finding adequate clean energy, these measures will be very short-lived. The center cannot hold. The beast is loose upon the land.

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born


Yeats – The Second Coming