Emails with an early description of my theory

A different conversation, with Friend#16

2019|9|24

From: Ray Gangarosa

To: Friend#16 (and others)

Subject: installment 1: some background information I hope you’ll find interesting

Hi Friend#16

I’m struggling with writer’s block on the summary I’m preparing for you and others, so I’ll turn my attention to introducing myself and describing the very few (but highly influential) conversations I’ve had with Friend#15 over a 20-year period. He has been like sand in an oyster for me, sending me back to the drawing board a couple critical times to reshape my ideas, but I feel his criticisms have greatly improved my perspective and work.

I am an engineer, physician, and epidemiologist. I had a great math teacher in high school, who reinforced my dream that mathematics could help understand and solve social problems. In engineering graduate school, I aspired to learn how biological systems work, and after my medical internship in internal medicine, I worked in MRI research when it was a shiny new diagnostic tool. This project began in 1985 when my colleagues and I developed an expert system for MRI scan setup using a detailed mathematical model of the scanner physics. When my company canceled my group’s project developing a low-cost magnetic resonance imager, I moved back to Atlanta, enrolled at Emory University in an MPH program in the epidemiology track, and also finished the course work for a PhD in epidemiology. However, I got sidetracked in 1988 with a “small project” I thought would only take a few months — developing the scientific and legal strategy for suing the tobacco (and alcohol) companies for uncompensated societal healthcare costs. I circulated my strategy among prominent antitobacco activists, who used it as a blueprint for the state attorneys general Medicaid lawsuits, which some time later led to the Master Tobacco Settlement. I worked as a research fellow with the Emory Ethics Center to coauthor the first law review article on that strategy of “third party litigation” and started a second project on corporate accountability to put that social tool into a broader perspective. 

I had another reason for pursuing these areas in public health: my father, Gene Gangarosa’s, work in enteric epidemiology has saved tens of millions of lives since he set the stage for oral rehydration therapy and household water disinfection — putting population pressures for humanity to live more wisely. If humanity collapses in a huge population die-off, all his work would have been in vain. I’ve also taken seriously his colleague, Bill Foege’s, advice about pessimists: listen carefully to what they say but keep them off your team! 

Unfortunately — it seemed at first — at that point in the mid-1990s, I had my first conversation with Friend#15! I think of him as the ultimate pessimist and myself as the ultimate optimist, so that was a conversation of huge contrasts! I was astounded that Friend#15 shot down my unbridled enthusiasm for enforcing constructive incentives by closing negative externalities; he admonished, “You’ll only heat up the economy and make humanity a more efficient parasite!” I didn’t realize it then, but Friend#15’s objection spoke to the distinction between societal adaptation and civilization evolution, but I couldn’t reconcile the two concepts at the time, so I dropped out of my doctoral program and went back to the drawing board for the first time. 

I worked on my theory for two decades before it was ready for publication. I included a large aspect of it as an appendix (“The role of public health in civilizational evolution: healing the schism between science and religion”) to my father’s autobiography (But now they are angels: reflections on my life in service to public health), which we self-published in 2016. I was as excited about using the principles in my new theory in a Hillary Clinton administration as I was about testing them against Friend#15’s judgment again! 

Needless to say, I hit a brick wall on both accounts! You know what happened in the 2016 presidential election; Friend#15 reacted against my gentle, secular approach to spirituality with a hellfire-and-brimstone quote from the book of Isaiah. 

I needed to go back to the drawing board anyway, because one of my brothers is an evangelist and reacted even more vehemently against an early draft of that appendix I wrote for our father’s book. I knew I needed to address fundamentalists’ perspective, although it took me a while to see exactly why Friend#15’s edgy impressions were right on target. After all, fundamentalists already object vociferously against “social engineering”, so unless we get them on board, there will be no way to get them to buy into “purposive civilizational design” — hopefully far short of widespread, blatantly obvious environmental catastrophe!

I’ve spent the last three years developing both the science and the theology of my theory of purposive civilizational design and evolution. Even my brother now agrees that the theory responds well to the concerns of Christian evangelists, despite my inherently progressive perspective focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on the environment. Suffice it to say for now that there is a mathematical “Rosetta stone” for translating between scientific and theological perspectives, which responds to all faith traditions, especially in light of the challenges posed by global climate change. To test it out again, I tried contacting Friend#15 (and you, as vice president of his organization) again by email early this summer. I got no response, so I stopped by his house, which is quite close to mine. I talked with him briefly and then with his caretakers at greater length. They suggested he might benefit from hearing me talk about his former interests. And as you know, they helped me get in touch with you. 

In addition to a revision of the appendix for a submission of my father’s book to Johns Hopkins Press and a scientific article on the physics of civilizational evolution and design, I am conducting research on a book for a popular audience entitled The prodigal species: seeking purpose and meaning to human existence during troubled times. I anticipate that book will be the first of a trilogy, which will end with The mathematics of civilizational evolution and design. I dream of returning to graduate school, this time in mathematics, to provide me the tools to complete the trilogy. 

I have assembled formidable resources for this undertaking: scientific notebooks now approaching 100,000 pages, two EndNote bibliographies (before and after my first conversation with Friend#15!) with a total of well over 40,000 references, an Evernote database of 100,000 articles — all of which are searchable electronically. I also have a library of several thousand books on various related subjects. My most recent 3-5 notebooks, spanning about 2,500 pages, are the foundation for The prodigal species. My house could serve as a small but nice conference center for discussions on these ideas. I would like to assemble a community of scholars dedicated to the study of purposive civilizational design and communication how society should proceed with those principles. 

I have come to believe that (1) problem-solving is too narrow a perspective for framing humanity’s complex parasitic relationship with the interdependent web of existence, (2) feedback science is too adaptive (i.e., narrowly directed over short timescales) and not sufficiently oriented to evolutionary design (i.e., over civilizational levels and timescales), and (3) even science as a whole is too “young” as a perspective (with modern methods prevalent only for centuries, not thousands, millions, or billions of years). 

To reach a state of ecological peace with our planet, humanity needs an approach that builds on thousands of years of civilizational development and billions of years of biological evolution, consistent with foundational scientific principles. Key to this undertaking are (1) healing the schism between science and theology, (2) learning from biological evolution how multicellular organisms cooperate internally, and (3) identifying physical principles that establish foundations for new forms of responsible, wise, compassionate cooperation made possible only through conscious civilizational design and evolution. I think humanity is poised at a very pivotal transition when such breakthroughs are both necessary and possible. 

As you will soon read, I am immensely optimistic that these concepts can turn our culture around quickly — especially if released just when the Trump administration has safely crashed and burned! As I mentioned, I’m having some transient difficulty pulling all the threads together. Besides feeling a bit overwhelmed by the scope of this 35-year project, I’ve been struggling a bit with persisting computer problems. But all that will pass. 

I apologize for this overly long description of my background, but I’ve been stalled for a week making little progress on the summary. Getting this introduction out of the way checks off one more topic to include in it, so we’ll just proceed in installments. I’m copying two friends who have been interested in this project for many years. 

Best wishes, 

Ray Gangarosa

2019|10|1

9-28- to 10-1-2019   my response to Friend#16, copied to others

installment 2 (corrected*): survey of the foundational ideas of my theory by comparing our backgrounds

Hi Friend#16

Thank you for your own “very informative and intriguing” personal and professional introduction, which gives me a great perspective of your life experiences, especially with Friend#15. Best of all, it lets me know how to tailor my presentation to your background, which is in many ways similar to mine, simplifying my presentation as I struggle with writer’s block.

I’m also having serious computer hardware problems — a dying battery in my now-obsolescent iPhone 6 Plus, a swollen battery in my MacBook Pro that warped the case and keyboard, and synchrony problems between my iMac and laptop computers. While my laptop computer is being repaired, my iMac is having strange email problems, even on the Gmail website, so I’ll send this response to you as a Word document attachment by Dropbox or Google Docs. I’ve also found the tables reproduce better in a Word document than as pasted in an email message. 

Here’s what my background seems to have in common with yours: a long sojourn through Unitarian Universalism during the 1990s (migrating since 2013 through Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations to understand Christianity better, but with some interest in reestablishing connections with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta to update some talks I gave there back then); strong interests in systems and computer science (but in my case, working in peripheral technologies, like magnetic resonance imaging); an epidemiologist’s overarching emphasis on common interests (including my own study of Daly and Cobb’s For the common good and a keen interest in the organization Redefining Progress, through all its metamorphoses); a corresponding redefinition of economics (e.g., the “ecological footprint” and the “Genuine Progress Indicator”) based on consistent ecosystem compatibility and control of externalities rather than unsustainable exponential capital growth; an epidemiologist’s graduate-level grounding in biostatistics (so your example of bootstraps methods helps me understand your computer background), a (closet) activist’s awareness of the difficulties of “mass mindset change”; an engineer’s understanding of sensitivity to initial conditions (both in terms of chaotic systems and Lyapunov exponents of transformative dynamic bifurcation); many practical engineering experiences along the whole spectrum from kluges to elegant designs; and an interest in the structure of music (without being much of a performer), which, as I will explain, also might be relevant to this exploration. 

Judging from what I’ve learned from my few brief encounters with you and Friend#16, here are several ways I think my perspective might possibly diverge from yours, to one degree or other: an unshakeable, constitutional optimism; a conviction that sustainability is too narrow a focus at this critical inflection point in human civilization (when “hooks” for many, many other Lyapunov exponents must also be established to allow for futurable civilizational designs, as I will explain below); an intuitive feeling that temporal continuity at the highest levels and over the largest timescales matters more than local problem-solving approaches (as I will explain at the end); a broadening of context beyond systems science (ideally) to all of biology and human thought; a broad, progressive view of Christianity that reconnects with its origins and extends this inquiry beyond humanism to the origins of Judaism, of religion, of culture, of humanity, of multicellularity, and of life, and then from those archaic backgrounds, reconstructing the arc of evolution and of history stripped of the contextual baggage under which each incremental idea arose as a product of its time; exposure to Islamic, Hindu offshoot, and Buddhist cultures that widens my perspective of world religions (my family lived in Pakistan, traveled briefly through India, worked in Lebanon and other Middle East countries on and off during the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s, and I lectured in Japan during the 1980s); and a conviction that activists must construct an overarching narrative that resonates with universal human experiences — ideally featuring a prominent role for all forms of humor, art, music, literature, and theology. Far from making the activist’s task more complex, this broadened perspective (if you’ll forgive the weapons analogy!) provides far more firepower, ammunition, and covering fire for getting the necessary ideas across! 

This expanded research has led me to think that humanism and systems theory are too narrow a perspective to engage people whose beliefs are rooted in some form of theology and, more importantly, to expand the context of science into spiritual discourse — not only to curtail science’s current toxic interactions with itself and other aspects of human culture, but also to understand the roots of all religions in terms amenable both to analysis and to wonder. To give a few specific examples here (on which I’ll expand as our conversation continues): (1) the evolution of (meta)multicellularity at the level of human civilization allows us to consider what the early Christians meant by “the body of Christ”, along with the role that “believers” should play in developing its capabilities and ensuring its health; (2) with certain crucial caveats that distinguish Christianity from the pagan cultures against which it reacted, the notion of a living Gaia provides a “hook” for secularists to begin to understand the Holy Spirit, which infuses the universe with grace (if we cooperate with Her); (3) the “unpardonable sin” of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” that Jesus mentions in three of the four gospels of the New Testament might be conceptualized in our era (a) in practical terms of actions that would make our planet humanly uninhabitable and (b) in theological terms in relation to misrepresenting the Holy Spirit in human culture (a warning that I take very seriously indeed); (4) The Trinity, {Father | Son | and Holy Spirit}, might be considered, in diverse profound ways, of a compartmentalization of all issues relating to {past | present | and future} (respectively) in nature, as applied to, e.g., (a) the only way that mortal humans with short lifetimes can conceptualize a timeless God, (b) three different voices of a single God providing advice for dealing with {past | present | future}, which we might interpret as three different personages, speaking to human intelligence, community, culture and civilization, (c) a framework under which theological concepts can be analyzed dynamically in the time (or frequency) domain from the standpoint of civilizational physics and then synthesized into civilizational designs from the standpoint of civilizational engineering, and (d) a perspective that can immediately and seamlessly reconcile Islam (which regards the Trinity as blasphemous paganism) with Christianity, as just one example of the healing power of this approach. 

This broad framework provides a vehicle for a public theological discourse in which all people, from secular atheists to devout followers of all religions, can participate, regardless of their spiritual trajectories and beliefs. It explains: 

(1) life in terms of theology, …

e.g., 

  • a proof of the existence and nature of God — the timeless, focused, hyper-intelligent perspective, spanning all influences, Who, above all other considerations in the universe, cares for and contributes to the development and well-being of the civilization on earth [and those of other planets elsewhere, if any such civilizations exist]
  • the nature of accountability after death (the regret that each soul might experience in not having optimized the civilizational Lyapunov exponents over which he/she may have had control during his/her life, as a matter of contributing maximally to forming the kingdom of God)
  • hypocrisy detectors embedded in ancient scriptures, compounded by subsequent historical errors (e.g., the virulent, individualistic anthropocentrism of Christian fundamentalism that has led the Republican party to Trumpism)

… and (2) theology in terms of science, 

e.g., 

  • divergence of Christian, Islamic, and Hindu fundamentalism from truth, like Kalman filters that have lost their tracking signals
  • an explanation of the Fermi paradox (why we can’t detect signals from any extraterrestrial civilizations, when a naïve analysis suggests there should be very many): Any extraterrestrial civilizations that reach this stage of technological development would have to negotiate a period of self-destructive turbulence that may compromise life and civilizational integrity on their planets unless they reconcile with spiritual truths. 

In addition, I have focused on other areas of science that have seemed off the beaten track, but which play prominent roles in my theory of civilizational design and evolution, for example: 

  • the thermodynamics of life in terms of “flashing ratchets” 

playing pairs of losing games against each other to craft a single winning strategy, by successively “jumping ship” before either game goes down, so the player never “goes down with either ship”; always allowing for a fallow period to refloat each ship while the player rides the other one as long as it is viable

  • John Letcher’s “5-moieties model of the universe”

This section corrects serious errors in the previously-circulated version of this summary of my theory. My deep apologies to John for this omitted attribution‼ 

John Letcher has developed a comprehensive model of the universe, based on “5 moieties”: charges, masses, photons, spins and neutrinos. He then uses Helmholtz’s fundamental theorem of vector calculus to develop a corresponding field theory of universal interaction, which provides a nonlocal framework on which quantum physics can be formulated under Louis de Broglie’s pilot-wave theory (which turns out to be relevant below). 

In heuristic terms, Maxwell’s equations and chemical reactions establish that 4 of the same 5 moieties are central to all physics in our tiny corner of the universe, as explained in the following table. In this analysis, we can leave out neutrinos; which are produced in stars in huge numbers and stream through everything in huge numbers at nearly the speed of light; but have little mass, no charge, and little tendency to interact with matter in our everyday lives. Not coincidentally, I would maintain, chemical reaction are expressible as 4-step sequences and Maxwell’s equations as 4 equations: 

 Letcher’s 
model
chemical 
reactions
Maxwell’s 
equations
comments
1charge→ affinitiescharge 
2mass→ structuremagnetismMaxwell’s 2nd equation forbids magnetic monopoles, so magnetism is produced by moving charges; magnetic fields thus depend on the charge/mass ratio
3photons→ energyelectricityPhotons provide impetus to overcome high-energy barriers in chemical reactions
4spins→ productsspins 
5neutrinosNeutrinos barely interact with matter and energy under all conditions familiar to us. 
  • life as proliferation of chemical reaction dynamics to ever-higher organizational levels

Whereas nature has three temporalities, {past | present |future}, Letcher’s model and chemical reactions give rise to life’s four temporalities that can propagate to higher levels. The extra degree of freedom can provide life a basis not available in natural systems for engaging in (past) learning, (present) survival, or (future) planning. Since, for intelligent systems, the past is established and the present is usually already upon us before we can change it, the two predominant remaining practical timescales are “future-present” (“How in the future will we respond to the present?”) and “future-future” (“How in the future will we respond to the future?”). 

Here is a table showing how the four interacting moieties of John Letcher’s model of the universe proliferate to higher levels of life and civilization as adaptive responses: 

 Letcher’s model chemical reactionsprimitive organismsproblem-solvingsystematic approaches
1chargeaffinitiesstimulus inputantecedentspast
2massstructurestimulus outputproblemspresent
3photonsenergyresponse inputsolutionsfuture-present*
4spinsproductsresponse outputconsequencesfuture-future**

* future-present: How in the future will we deal with the present? 

** future-future: How in the future will we deal with the future? 

This table begins to hint how sporadic problem-solving only deals with systemic flaws at the margins and proposes systematic approaches dealing with the whole, as Friend#16 did. 

  • an explanation of 7-step developmental theories

Developmental theories (e.g., by Piaget, Kohlberg, Ericksen) often are described as a sequence of seven steps, with earlier steps being prerequisites for later ones. I believe the first four steps come from life’s adaptations and the final three steps from a requirement that the evolved design must resonate with nature to be compatible at the next-higher level. Here is the whole developmental process of 7 steps: 

adaptive stepsantecedents → problems → solutions → consequences → … 
evolutionary steps… → higher-level past → higher-level present → higher-level future

This framework goes beyond Friend#15’s systems theory approach by postulating a developmental sequence for reconciling humanity’s needs with nature’s constraints. However, we will go yet further by examining hidden steps and incorporating Lonergan’s epistemology (See below). Then we’ll see that there are other evolutionary architectures that are more advanced than this 7-step adaptive-to-evolutionary sequence. This entire framework justifies my claim that systems theory is too narrow a perspective for civilizational design and evolution. 

  • an explanation of the nature of sequential processes

However, some steps are hidden from a system as it evolves from its past and undergoes transition and transformation. Before it can solve problems, it has to fit into its niche, establish its self-identity, and develop a sense of community. After it has met the prerequisite of resonating with nature, then it can undergo transition and transformation. Here is the whole transformational sequence of 12 steps, embedding the developmental sequence described above: 

the transformational sequence, with the embedded 7-step process highlighted

 step
1niche
2self
3community
4antecedents
5problems
6solutions
7consequences
8past
9present
10future
11transition
12transformation

After the system reaches transformation, it can proceed with the same 12 steps at a higher level of development. Alternatively, as explained below, it can experiment with different 12-step processes, as needed to evolve toward yet better civilizational designs. 

  • a possible role for tonal music theory and music history in understanding these phenomena

Tonal music provides a familiar example of a 7-step sequence (a musical key) embedded in a 12-step sequence (the notes of a chromatic scale within an octave). This pattern has undergone evolution from harmonic Renaissance tuning, to even-tempered scales that facilitate exploration of tonal space, to increasingly atonal and dissonant idioms. There are interesting parallels in civilization, which our aesthetic appreciation of music may help us understand better. As a practicing musician, you may understand such things much better than I ever will! 

  • historical time as a cyclical process and echo chamber defined in terms of Lonergan’s epistemology. 

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and polymath scholar whose combined opus, ranging from theology to philosophy to economics and still under preparation by his former students, will eventually span 26 volumes. His study of epistemology — how we get to know what we know — is particularly revealing and relevant to this exploration. 

Here is the table he constructed to describe the process of gaining knowledge: 

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Note the following features of Lonergan’s typology of learning: 

  • It incorporates two sequential 4-step problem-solving processes, each exactly mirroring the stepwise process I described above. In fact, as we did before, we can trace his typology from the atomic level of neurotransmitters to the level of individual learners, collective societies, and civilization as a whole: 
 Letcher’s model chemical reactionsLonergan’s description of problem-solving“retrieving the past”“moving into the future”
1chargeaffinitiesattentivenessresearchfoundations
2massstructureintelligenceinterpretationdoctrines, policies
3photonsenergyreasonabilityhistorysystematics, plans
4spinsproductsresponsibilitydialecticcommunications, implementations
  • Thus, Lonergan’s typology for learning is like a developmental process, but instead of resonating humanity’s temporality with nature’s demands for transformative change (a 7-step process), it is an 8-step process that reconciles the past with future demands, all within the human realm. 
    • We can think of this epistemology occurring over historical timescales, where humanity learns from experience first how to reconcile the past and then how to “move into” (redesign) the future. Under that picture, historical time would fold back on itself until a transformation occurred, potentially spawning cyclical behavior or entirely new designs (See below). 
    • We get a sense from this typology how critical it is to lay down good designs throughout the cycle (and especially early), because “kluges” (defined as “ludicrously inelegant and dysfunctional designs”) could be with humanity for a very long time, force future generations to make wrenching changes midway through history, and/or cause us to contaminate future transformation with past mistakes. 
    • We also get a sense how evolution of multicellular organisms may have followed similar tracks. In my book, I intend to develop those ideas before describing these much higher-level extrapolations from atomic and molecular physics. 
    • You get an idea, then, how the atomic structure of all things and the molecular structure of our bodies proliferates to ever-higher levels preserving the same four steps ultimately arising from the four steps of chemical reactions. Nature has a different structure based on three temporalities. Civilizational design has to meet these constraints before any transformation will be successfully incorporated into human history, allowing humanity to progress to subsequent transformative changes. 

Biological evolution went through the same processes, but isn’t necessarily a good model because (1) it is ruthless and aimless, as social Darwinism has shown time and again, (2) lacking analytical capabilities, it only tinkers, typically at one or very few change loci at a time, (3) clearly, God, by giving us intelligence and compassion, is asking us to do more with His kingdom than settle for what exists in nature. 

What humanity needs to do is consider all clues — arising in nature, life, and civilization — as we build the kingdom of God with awareness, wisdom, and compassion. 

It’s fortuitous and illuminating that Lonergan cast his theory in terms of gaining responsibility, but I want to modify it to enforcing accountability, as might be required in the operation of a multicellular organism. Lonergan’s step of being reasonable would, of course, have to be a given within an organism, to keep it functioning. 

Here is a redrawing of the essence of Lonergan’s epistemology, highlighting the points that need to be changed for civilizational designs modeled after superorganisms: 

 reconciling the pastlooking toward the future
being responsible¯
being reasonable¯
being intelligent¯
being attentive ­¯

My modifications of Lonergan’s epistemology are again highlighted in this table: 

  reconciling the pastlooking toward the future
being accountablewisdom¯
being responsible¯
being intelligentawareness¯
being attentive ­¯

This pattern serves as a circular channel in which events occur, interact, and reverberate over timescales measured in decades, centuries, and millennia, eventually coming back full circle after each completed transformation. We can think of this closed-loop channel in terms of (1) a waveguide for solitons (nonlinear wave packets), (2) a particle accelerator for civilizational ideas and designs, and (3) the basis for setting up pulse sequences inside the echo chamber of civilizational structure, as with nuclear magnetic spectrometers (See below). 

Here is how human history has followed that epistemological pattern since the emergence of Christianity — and how our era is restarting that cycle using science (not belief) for knowledge and theology for spirituality: 

 past à … … à future
 4® need to learn how life worksBlack Death 5®¯ Renaissance
3Middle Ages6¯ Industrial/scientific revolutions
2Trinitarianism7¯ World Wars
1Gospels: origin of Christianity in Jesus’ time8¯ Information age¯
10… (Clear the slate, start again)¬¬¬ … ??? ¬¬¬9¯ NOW¬¬¬ need to merge 
science and spirituality

As you look at the numbered sequence of events in this diagram, you can appreciate that they occurred haphazardly because humanity did not understand these dynamics. So conversely, imagine if humanity understood extremely well how civilization is structured and then configured the sequence of events to produce well-defined echoes, like NASA engineers planning slingshot effects around planets on interplanetary space missions. 

As we’ll see, God may have arranged just such coherent, perfectly-timed echoes in our time. And as I’ll point out in my book, that’s exactly how nuclear magnetic spectrometer pulse sequences work, designed to probe the “truth” inside a sample specimen. 

  • other sequential processes of interest

The 4 x 2 = 8-step process of Bernard Lonergan’s epistemology shown above captures the design concerns of a nervous system (which doesn’t have to deal with the metabolism of the present, only the conditioning of the past and the expectations of the future).

Throw in concern for the present and you get a 4 x 3 = 12-step circulatory system, which might be the perfect structure for an economy. Instead of being chopped up as 3 + 4 + 3 + 2 steps, as in the transformational sequence shown above, it lends itself to designs that are more flexible and more modular. 

More primitive in its dynamics, but still very important, is a 3-step immune system, which deals with niche, self, and community. 

At this critical inflection point, when humanity has to reverse our own tendencies that are destroying our planet, our collective immune system is screaming out, in so many ways, that dictators are incompatible with humanity’s niche (at peace with the earth), self (as a basis for wise self-governance), and community (as a global village capable of rational thought and action). What we can learn from Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is that God is telling us at this critical historical point is that we must purge the institution of dictatorship from human civilization as a force of humanity’s collective irrationality. 

My experience with third party litigation suggests how to do this: make dictators’ personal fortunes accountable for damages inflicted on the vulnerable populations they scapegoat to gain and maintain power — but also provide amnesty in exile so former dictators have incentive to step down without fear for their lives from the vengeance of their own people. If Puerto Rico can rebuild its electrical grid on what’s left from bankrupting Donald Trump’s fortune, people with autocratic inclinations won’t think twice in the future about going into government! And if Putin can’t rely on the goodwill that’s required to make transformative civilizational evolution work, then either his people will oust him, too, or else his nation will be forced to live on the periphery of civilization, like a bacterial species on a person’s skin. Autocratic leaders who refuse to play by the international community’s rules will be forced either to evolve into benign forms or else have their actions suppressed or fully curtailed by the civilizational equivalent of antibiotics developed by the superorganism of democratic nations.

More advanced than the 12-step transformational sequence are two “prayer-like” sequences: 

3 x 4 structure: human adaptation embedded in God’s evolution

4 x 3 structure: human evolution embedded in God’s adaptation

Where is humanity now? Conservatives and progressives are each trying to squeeze the other out of the driver’s seat, wrestling for control of the steering wheel with each determined to pull in only one direction — so each is capable of no more than driving round and round in a circle! — oscillating in their control of the vehicle as it careens side-to-side at ever-increasing speed towards a cliff of planetary destruction! This scenario resembles a fictional (and certainly nonviable) organism that functions on the most primitive level, like the dynamic between osteoblasts (which build bone up) and osteoclasts (which break it down). 

  • history as a soliton channel

Solitons (Note the spelling, distinguished from the word from “solutions”) are nonlinearly refocused waves that maintain their integrity against dispersive forces. Solitons are like the opposite of chaos, with negative (not positive) Lyapunov exponents that increase (not decrease) stability. 

If human epistemology creates channels in history, soliton waves can launch, echo, and reverberate through such waveguides. Such phenomena can account for the fact that “History doesn’t rhyme, but it does repeat itself.” 

  • similarity of crude (or precise) soliton channels to NMR pulse sequences

If human epistemology establishes cyclical processes in history, such soliton sequences can resemble crude pulse sequences, and may even repeat due to historical experience. With much more understanding of the dynamics of the underlying process, it seems possible that humanity could generate very precise pulse sequences that probe historical processes for some kind of “truth” like an NMR spectrometer. How such probes would work and what they would detect remains to be seen. 

  • hydrodynamic analogues of quantum physics

Quantum physics is the scientific discipline that helps us understand chemical reactions as dynamic processes. It could give us a quantitative understanding that is complementary to the qualitative framework described above for developmental, transformative, biological, and civilizational sequences. 

Unfortunately, the Copenhagen interpretation (1927) of quantum physics has severely distorted humanity’s perception of reality itself. To preserve the purity of atomic physics experiments, quantum mechanics postulated that trajectories cease to exist and only strange probability clouds remain. All sorts of weird distortions of reality arise from trying to patch together observations at the subatomic realm with macroscopic phenomena, including, for example, “wavefront collapse” that doesn’t exist until and unless it is observed and multiple parallel universes spawned from each branching condition. 

However, quantum physics was originally derived from hydrodynamic models by Madelung and from “pilot-wave” trajectories by de Broglie (1927). Bohm (1954) further refined de Broglie’s pilot-wave” trajectories to consider “guiding waves” — imagine the design and theological implications! Those approaches recognized that electrons and other subatomic particles are so light that the mere act of measurement blows them away, so the boundary conditions of Schrödinger’s differential equation cannot be matched. 

Hydrodynamic quantum analogues should manifest trajectories, pilot-waves, and guiding waves, because the same quantum equations apply and the boundary conditions can be matched. In 2005, Suzie Protière, Arezki Boudaoud, and Yves Couder demonstrated these features in a simple, elegant, inexpensive, and easily reproduced experiment of oil droplets bouncing on a sonicated water bath. With their apparatus, we can easily see quantum phenomena sloshing around under the influence of guiding wave potentials and bouncing on the standing waves they emit. 

References: 

  • Protière, S., et al. (2006). “Particle–wave association on a fluid interface.” Journal of Fluid Mechanics 554: 85-108.
    • Brady, R. and R. Anderson (2014). “Why bouncing droplets are a pretty good model of quantum mechanics.” 1-20.
    • Sleutel, P., et al. (2016). “Bouncing droplets: a classroom experiment to visualize wave-particle duality on the macroscopic level.” European Journal of Physics 37(5).
  • general implications of hydrodynamic quantum analogues

If quantum physics really arises from particles bouncing on their own standing waves and externally-applied guiding waves, then we can prove at a glance that every conclusion from the Copenhagen interpretation is fundamentally wrong, at least in some details. The bouncing process depends on a nonlinear interaction between two trajectories, while the conventional approach to quantum physics has always denied trajectories and assumed linear superposition. It’s true that waves superimpose linearly under weak excitation and that the nonlinear effects might be characterized probabilistically, but physicists have been very sloppy about extrapolating subatomic experiments to macroscopic reality and timeless cosmology from a theory that is fundamentally wrong and grossly approximate! All those conclusions, from the central role of observers to “wave function collapse” to multiple universes are all just so much garbage, conjured up so quantum physicists could keep intuition from “contaminating” their experiments on subatomic particles. 

  • social implications of hydrodynamic quantum analogues

It’s entirely plausible that social phenomena exhibit the same sorts of “sloshing under externally-applied potentials.” In fact, the behaviors exhibited by bouncing oil droplets often closely resemble communities influenced by their externalities (i.e., the standing waves on which they bounce). The mathematical machinery of hydrodynamic quantum analogues — minus all the hocus-pocus of the Copenhagen interpretation — informs us how conditioning occurs, and restoration of the concept of trajectories also restores the notions of personal and collective paths and responsibilities. 

  • wavelet transforms as “where the rubber meets the road” in civilizational analysis and design

Intelligent systems may find it easier to deal with compartmentalized time than would analytical systems. We usually think of resonance in terms of impedance characteristics (e.g., LRC tank circuits) without regard to the boundaries of past, present, and future, but in that setting, we usually consider only time-invariant systems. Evolving systems are slowly time-varying, so other forms of analysis are required. I propose quasi-static wavelet transform methods. 

The time domain isn’t the best realm for design, but it’s easy enough to transform into the frequency domain, which works much better. Because signals and systems don’t deal with waveforms extending to infinity in the past and future, wavelet transforms with compact temporal support can be used in place of Fourier transforms. 

John Letcher and I plan to write an article for a physics journal that parallels much of the exposition I’ve written so far and ends about here. 

  • introduction of teleology into this theory of civilizational design and evolution

A teleological view, introducing purposiveness into life and civilization, might hold that God has waited until all factors were lined up to bring all these features into coincidence. Had any or all factors been developed prematurely (e.g., in development of nuclear weapons), it would be difficult now to disentangle them to produce constructive civilizational designs. As a result, the “civilizational NMR spectrometer” would have poor resolution and a kludgy design that would be difficult to upgrade over civilizational timescales. 

A secular view of civilization might reach the same conclusions from a teleonomic standpoint, starting from the viewpoint that powerful research tools — databases, applications, Internet, computer searches, etc. — would tend to mature and provide tools for midcourse corrections about the same time their toxic complications and technological interactions created the civilizational crisis in question. In terms of flashing ratchets operating over civilizational timescales, spiritual traditions have functioned in the background during the “fallow period” of scientific humanism to refloat the otherwise losing game of theological doctrinism alone (i.e., doctrinaire religions). In terms of soliton channels in historical cycles, human intelligence provides the capacity to set up echoes that mimic the pulse sequences that determine operation of NMR spectrometers. 

Seen from this perspective, humanity’s current floundering can be seen as a desirable feature, not a dangerous bug. Al Gore finds optimism in the dictum that things seem hopeless for longer than we’d like, but then the dam breaks and things move faster than we could previously have imagined. The features of a theory that I have outlined above explain how this pattern might manifest in civilizational evolution and design. Coming at a time when Donald Trump has illustrated everything that humanity has been doing wrong in one compact package, putting these ideas, simply and coherently, into the noosphere, may cause civilization to crystallize around their structure. Or so I hope! 

Even if we do have a rational, nontheological, teleonomic explanation in hand, is it so far-fetched that God has been acting over vast timescales to produce such pulse sequence echoes? Humanistic traditions tend to discount and discard such teleological propositions, but those philosophies have only been around for a few hundred years, not the millions and billions of years in question. To use humanistic thought in this regard amounts to using linear perturbation theory to analyze a huge tract of nonlinear space. 

Let’s step back and survey this whole system over all time, starting with the apparent paradoxical rarity of civilizations in the universe. Multicellular life set the stage for hyper-cooperative internal operation, but the age of dinosaurs set up a stable regime where predator-prey dynamics prevailed. It took an asteroid strike not quite sufficient to wipe out all life on earth to reset life’s dynamics to allow mammalian intelligence and human civilization to take over. In the first place, I think the emergence this secondary optimum is a rare occurrence in the universe. 

Furthermore, if a higher intelligence exists, It/He/She would value, nourish, and shape civilization above all other considerations. It/He/She would set up the learning environment for the critical inflection period with Neils Bohr’s preceding intransigent, domineering approach to quantum physics and condition Donald Trump and his supporters to teach us everything that humanity has been doing wrong. It/He/She would establish the timing of past events so the technological tools that cause great turbulence threatening planetary health would also create the research tools to help us determine how to steer this crazy vehicle before we careen it over the cliff ahead of us! 

Humanity’s interaction with that higher intelligence would illustrate the purpose and meaning of human existence. Our job is to make the crude soliton channel of history a precision NMR spectrometer for detecting truth, as a matter of building God’s kingdom on earth. This is a theological dialog that can engage all humanity, from secular humanists to devout theologians. 

  • civilizational design as an expert system that performs tradeoffs on a precision instrument

The expert system for MRI scan setup that John Letcher and I developed in the mid-1980s is a good model of civilizational design, both for the civilization as scanner and the optimization process we used. We modeled how the input machine parameters filter through the physics of magnetic resonance imagers to produce diagnostic image characteristics; then we constructed sigmoidal tradeoff functions for each performance variable and optimized an overall performance functional. 

  • civilizational designs modeled after high-performance electronic consumer products and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers

Upgrading consumer products is a messy process; with civilizational design, it would be much worse because it would involve changing the (literally!) global structure surrounding and supporting everybody’s lives! That’s why I think it’s not sufficient to consider sustainability alone — we must line up all the tradeoff functions for every civilizational performance variable to be futurable as far as our vision allows. 

Maybe because an apprentice carpenter who has only used a hammer sees everything as a nail, given my background in MRI research, I like to think of civilization as an NMR spectrometer that detects truth against a background of falsity. 

On the other hand, as explained above, Lonergan’s epistemology establishes a philosophical basis for a waveguide, a particle accelerator, and pulse sequencer. As further explained above, by pulling together all these ideas all at once, we have the possibility of incorporating them into civilizational designs with high performance, in the manner of our MRI expert system. 

  • transformative civilizational evolution as an ongoing process

We must build all the hooks into the transformation process so it becomes easy to swap out civilizational designs easily and modularly. I don’t know anyone else who is considering this extremely important criterion. 

  • where we go from here

Traditional analysis, as with electronic circuits, sets up resonances in the frequency domain with inductors L, capacitors C, and resistances R. While life senses observable phenomena in terms of neuron pulse trains with specific triggering frequencies, our experiences are typically in the time domain. How can we consider the “resonances” between the human and natural realms that would meet the conditions required to complete transformations? 

Interestingly, there is a theological answer to this question. The early Christians conceived Trinitarian doctrine of one God in three Persons in terms of “perichoresis”, “the dance of the Trinity”, which proceeds from Father to Son to Holy Spirit and back to father in an endless circle. Identifying {Father | Son | and Holy Spirit} with {past | present | and future}, respectively, we see the same kind of dance as a temporal sequence compatible with all of engineering analysis! 

We can further imagine intelligent constituencies with vested interests in each of these separate temporalities “steering” the course of the resonance through its timescale and handing off to the next one in turn. Each would oversee the growth in beneficial Lyapunov exponents and the damping of harmful Lyapunov exponents like financial managers do with their clients’ monetary accounts. 

We can yet further identify constituencies for {past | present | and future} in terms of {disenfranchised minorities | progressives | and conservatives}, respectively. Minorities are concerned with righting past abuses; progressives generally concern themselves with ministering to those who are alive in the present era; and conservatives generally want to steer the boat. Let them steer, with the understanding that navigation is a joint venture undertaken through democratic principles and a (nonreligious, nondenominational) theological discourse in which all participate. 

In that setting, we can apply “civilizational wisdom” by removing the historical context from past ideas. Regardless of whether Karl Marx or William Buckley wanted to steer only left or only right, we can recognize the folly of steering in circles, whether counterclockwise or clockwise! Recognizing that we have to steer sometimes left and sometimes right, we can use left-leaning ideas about common interests and right-leaning ideas like individual rights judiciously and dispassionately in a new context of purposive (active) civilizational design and intentional (passive) civilizational evolution. An engineer designing a resonant tank circuit doesn’t get all bent out of shape about the discoverers’ prevailing ideological biases when inductors and capacitors were discovered, since both are required for the purpose at hand! 

So now you can see why I think a global (almost cosmic), long-timescale (almost timeless) perspective matters much more than local solutions to environmental problems. Just for starters, we need to be thinking of a civilizational design for endless successive transformative changes, which extends many iterations beyond our single current crisis of climate change. All kinds of issues derive from ensuring futurable designs so humanity is never again saddled with a rat’s nest of klugey designs (e.g., the combination of fossil fuels, internal combustion engines, and traffic gridlock with private vehicles). We need to make fluent transformative civilizational change a joyous collective adventure, not a cataclysmic civil or culture war of clashing values and priorities! 

I mentioned humor, art, music, literature, and theology as augmenting features of this exposition. The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) — depicted in many poignant paintings throughout Western history, which I could display in my book — provides a powerful narrative that elegantly illustrates where an ungrateful humanity exists in relation to a God Who has bequeathed us an exquisitely beautiful planet: 

Luke 15:11-32 

New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

I plan to model the book I’m researching, The prodigal species: seeking purpose and meaning to human existence in troubled times, after Douglas Hofstadter’s 1980 Pulitzer-prize-winning Gödel Escher Bach: an eternal golden braid — a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll. In fact, I often joke, “I expect to get as close to plagiarizing GEB as I can without getting thrown in the slammer!” 

In particular, Hofstadter made difficult concepts much easier to understand by preceding each chapter with an incredibly witty and funny skit that illustrated the same ideas in a very deep way. Suffice it to say that I have outlined a narrative I can use for this purpose, but fleshing it out to Hofstadter’s standards will be a challenge — but a lot of fun! 

My extremely wide but equally shallow literature search has convinced me that nobody else is considering these ideas. Unfortunately, in a way, I’ve forgotten much more than most people have even considered about civilizational evolution, so it’s hard for me to begin writing the book. Fortunately, for the last 34 years, I’ve recorded every idea that I could capture in this exploration. I’d hate to impose on you, but it might help with the writing if you and/or others looked through my (recent) notes as a commentator and/or coauthor. Judging from past experience of the person who helped me prepare the appendix to my father’s book, this should be an enjoyable and interesting experience. 

So, there’s an overview of my theory of civilizational design and evolution, tailored to your background! I’d be very interested to hear what you think. Please let me know areas that are unclear so I can describe them better in my book. I live about 5 miles away from Friend#16, so we can meet in person when we both find ourselves in the Atlanta area. 

I have expanded the conversation to several other people who may want to join it. 

Best wishes, 

Ray

2019|10|10

Installment 3, prepared for Friend#16: The physics of civilizational evolution and design

Raymond E. Gangarosa, MD, MPH, MSEE

October 7-10, 2019

Hi Ann (and others)

The previous two installments set up a discussion of the physics of civilizational evolution and design at the current phase of human development. I will refer repeatedly to table 1 in the discussion below: 

Table 1. overview of the physics of civilizational thermodynamics, adaptation, evolution, and design. Each successive step proceeds one incremental stage toward transformation, and each successive boundary in the table marks one structural level further in the process. 

stepdescriptioncurrent featureswhat happens 
in the steps at this level
civilizational physicsheading toward …
1nicheunsustainabilitylevel 1thermodynamics
also immunity
 life’s dynamics of 
flashing ratchets 
(extraction-metabolism
cycles energizing agents 
as “bouncing oil droplets”)
awareness
2selfgreedsustainability
3collectiveexternalitiespotentiation
4antecedentspastlevel 2: based on chemical reactionsadaptationnow via problem-solvinghydrodynamic quantum 
analoguescollective free willanthropocentric Zeitgeist → meta-multicellularity
wisdom
5problemspresentglobal perspective
6solutionsfuture-presentholism
7consequencesfuture-futureaccountability
8higher-level pastdisrespectlevel 3meta-multicellular evolution resonance with 
natural dynamics
knowledge
9higher-level presentsleepwalkingmutual sustenance
10higher-level futureunconcernhuman potential
11transitionobliviousnesslevel 4designresolution toward 
a new way of being
compassion
12transformationobliviousnessendless, fluent 
transformation

Review from installment 2

Think of these steps and levels as inheritance relationships that govern differential equations involving transformations to higher levels of capabilities. As we’ll see, these relationships impose form on developmental and transformational processes that clarify analytical structures. 

  1. Notation: In the discussion below and in future installments, the delimiter “|” separates terms referring to: 
  2. past | present | future, for 3-term sequences
  3. past | present | future-present | future-future, for 4-term sequences, 

where “future-present” denotes “How in the future will we deal with the present?” 

and “future-future” denotes “How in the future will we deal with the future?” 

  • The natural realm has “hooks” for 3-step processes, but no additional temporal awareness (e.g., memory or anticipation): past | present | future. 

To resonate with natural processes, intelligent agents can “steer” dynamics through these three temporalities to maximum effect. 

theological analogy: perichoresis, also described as “the dance of the Trinity”

  • Life, humanity, and civilization involve 4-step adaptive processes, originating with 4 interacting moieties and 4 steps in chemical reactions: 
 Letcher’s typology …… chemical reactions …… problem-solving …… holistic analysis
1chargesaffinitiesantecedentspast
2massespositioningproblemspresent
3photonsenergy barrierssolutionsfuture-present
4spinsproductsconsequencesfuture-future
  • Developmental processes characteristically involve 7 steps: progression through the 4 steps in life’s realm followed by a need to resonate with the 3 steps in the natural realm. 
  • Relevant multilevel causal sequences involve 4 x 3 = 12 steps: 4 steps in life’s realm resonating with each of 3 levels in the natural realm (or vice versa). 

Note: Grant Maxwell’s book, The dynamics of transformation: tracing an emerging world view (2017), independently derived exactly the same 12-step transformational process from an entirely different perspective. He describes the sequential steps in great detail without the mathematical framework I have developed here. 

When 7-step developmental processes are embedded in 12-step causal sequences, 5 steps are hidden from the developing system. 

  • Flashing ratchets provide organisms a way to transform two losing games (e.g., extraction alone and metabolism alone) into a winning strategy compatible with life (e.g., cycles of extraction and metabolism that we describe as “nourishment”). 
  • Hydrodynamic quantum analogues — exemplified by bouncing oil droplets in sonicated water baths — are macroscopic systems following Schrödinger’s equation and its boundary conditions, which govern chemical reactions at atomic levels. 

Review “Shedding Light on Pilot Wave Phenomena” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hopd-gKB1Xc

Civilizational physics: assembling the pieces 
(as they fit together at this stage in human history)

The pieces described above form a coherent mechanism for transformation based on first principles, as far as precedent allows us to see into this process. Consider them in terms of the four successive levels involved: thermodynamic, adaptive, evolutionary, and design. 

level 1. thermodynamic level (steps 1-3): flashing ratchets, extraction-metabolism cycles, activation of particles (like bouncing oil droplets on a water bath)

the thermodynamics of life

Life is a continual uphill battle against the first two laws of thermodynamics, I.e., gaining sufficient energy and discharging entropy into the environment. To make headway against these two thermodynamic gradients, a living biochemical system needs to set up two chemical ratchets, keeping chemical gradients from deteriorating when the organism is not actively feeding and metabolizing. Notably, neither function is sufficient by itself to sustain life, but an organism can alternate between the two functions to craft an overall winning strategy that can do so, as a “flashing ratchet”. In other words, extraction (e.g., digestion) and metabolism are each losing games, when they are performed without coordination between the two. However, performed alternately, they generate a positive sum game, which we might describe as nourishment of vital tissues. These internally coordinated biochemical functions are orthogonal to higher-order organizational processes described below: adaptation, evolution, and design. As we will see, nourishment generates the activation for those higher-level processes, in more ways than one. 

An organism’s nourishment is a function within step 2 of the transformational sequence, i.e., biochemical sustenance at the level of self (See table 1). However, where an organism gets its energy and discharges entropy affects higher-level processes. If extraction and metabolism operate entirely between steps 1 (niche) and 2 (self), then no complications propagate as externalities to higher levels. Conversely, if any or all extractive and/or metabolic functions spill over to compromise higher levels (think, for example, of muscle wasting in an organism, cannibalism in a society, or parasitic industries in an economy), then nourishment is accompanied by negative externalities (external costs). 

In a purely thermodynamic sense, it’s more efficient to get energy and discharge entropy at higher levels, which are intrinsically more energy-rich and highly organized. Such operations would gain nourishment through energy and/or entropy exchanges between self (step 2 in table 1) and the collective (step 3) or even higher-level steps. However, an organism cannot make headway in life catabolizing its own tissue. Sophisticated immunological processes prevent other invading organisms from doing so, and presumably equally elaborate internal machinery constrains extraction and metabolism from feasting on or discharging entropy into an organism’s own tissues. Cancers and autoimmunity are prominent pathological exceptions to this rule, representing cases where biochemical machinery malfunctions, often disastrously. 

externalities in civilization

In a civilization, the checks and balances against externalities are more tenuous, so societies may have weaker defenses against internal parasitism than against outside invaders. Many ancient societies have perished because they didn’t get the message in time and mortgaged their futures past the point of no return. Learning at least in part from such past mistakes, modern civilization incorporates laws, norms, mores, and ethical constraints to discourage gaining tragically shortsighted and exploitative efficiencies at the expense of one’s own societal structures. 

Unfortunately, as environmentalists have shown, such learning and necessary constraints are only incompletely developed and are not keeping pace with changes. In fact, humanity’s longstanding niche has become more and more unable to supply energy and dissipate entropy sustainably as technology has advanced, so more and more industries are effectively catabolizing higher-level structures and functions (e.g., with parasitic and/or harmful commerce). 

Another false “answer” to this dilemma of humanity’s unsustainable niche, once highly prevalent, is predatory behavior, e.g., colonialism. That operating system considered foreign nations as “other”, extracting resources from and dumping trash on weaker societies. With increasing awareness of this behavior and its undesirable side effects, weak societies are no longer taking such exploitation lying down. Another manifestation of this predatory phenomenon that exhibits equally irrational side effects is dictatorship, wherein demagogic leaders scapegoat weak populations that straddle international boundaries (e.g., immigrants). 

Even more to the point, the world’s increasingly-evident interconnectedness is making it obvious that planetary dynamics cannot sustain such exploitative practices, and humanity must think of our civilization as that of a single superorganism. The organization Redefining Progress developed a “genuine progress index” that subtracts externalities (i.e., the sum total of harmful commerce) from gross domestic product to calculate the net positive component of an economy. Such measures of the “good” part of the U.S. economy have been declining since the late 1960s or early 1970s. Even more dramatic, the contribution of natural dynamics to economic output (however measured) is many times greater than what human activity can provide. Cannibalizing our environment is therefore destroying the economic engine on which our living standards — and all life — depend. 

Ideally, negative externalities should be replaced with potentiating programs; and greedy, selfish, unsustainable behavior with awareness and a transition toward sustainability, as shown in this excerpt from table 1. 

step currently …… heading toward …
1nicheunsustainabilityawareness
2selfgreedsustainability
3collectiveexternalitiespotentiation

Currently, most attention from environmentalists concerns these trends, but these are just the lowest level on which we must focus our attention; there are many more issues to address at higher levels. We will focus on them by elucidating the mechanisms by which they function, starting at this same stage of collective processes (i.e., step 3). 

the role externalities play in hydrodynamic quantum analogues

Alternation between extraction and metabolism resembles the sonication process that keeps oil droplets bouncing on a water bath. Extraction plays the role of the upward displacement, providing energy to propel the droplet away from the water’s surface; metabolism resembles the downstroke and bounce. Metabolism further resembles the bouncing phase by depositing entropy in the higher-level system, in the form of externalities. In this way, the thermodynamics connect with the entire 12-step transformative sequence at higher levels through the 4-step process to follow, which is derived ultimately from the dynamics of chemical reactions. 

This deposition of entropy into higher-level processes may further be accompanied by extraction of energy at the earliest upswing of the bounce phase. In this way, both the extraction and metabolism functions at the thermodynamic level can parasitize higher-level function. Thus, these first three steps, often neglected in developmental and causal typologies, can drain and pollute higher levels even before consideration of those subsequent steps. 

level 2. adaptive level (steps 4-7): hydrodynamic quantum analogues, collective free will, anthropocentric Zeitgeist, transition toward meta-multicellularity

Hydrodynamic quantum analogues follow Schrödinger’s equation, like the atomic systems that govern chemical reactions. However, unlike in atomic processes where electrons are so light they scatter with the slightest measurement, the boundary conditions for hydrodynamic quantum analogues can be matched, as can be observed in bouncing oil droplets in sonicated water baths. 

We saw continuity with the chemical processes of extraction and metabolism, which play the roles of upward and downward bouncing, respectively, in the sonication process that provides energy and extracts entropy from the oil droplet. Functions in the plane of higher-level organization occur orthogonally to the bouncing process, in the action of externally-applied guiding waves and standing pilot-waves that emanate from the oil droplets’ bouncing action. Extraction of energy at the lower level might result in less energetic bouncing, while deposition of entropy from lower to higher levels might adversely affect the pattern of standing waves. We are only just now beginning to understand how such bouncing droplets behave as a system, so we have a lot to learn about how negative externalities manifest in this model. I think we have correspondingly underestimated and misunderstood the true extent and nature of negative externalities in economies, societies, and civilizations. 

Recall that this second level of system adaptation represents expression of free will at the collective level, ultimately due to effects of neurotransmitters on motivation, communication, and cooperation (or corresponding lack thereof). It is currently manifested as a highly maladaptive, anthropocentric Zeitgeist and is applied ad hoc as the problem-solving paradigm. To progress through this level, humanity needs to follow the example of biological evolution in its transition to multicellular architectures and operation, ensuring accountability from this level and the thermodynamic level below to find a sustainable niche and essentially eliminate negative externalities. The relevant section of table 1, augmented with our review from installment 2, is as follows: 

 Letcher’s 
typology …
… chemical 
reactions …
… problem-
solving …
… holistic 
analysis
 
1chargesaffinitiesantecedentspastwisdom
2massespositioningproblemspresentglobalism
3photonsenergy barrierssolutionsfuture-presentholism
4spinsproductsconsequencesfuture-futureaccountability

Besides reforming the adaptive process and establishing an unprecedented communication with the lower thermodynamic level, humanity must also find a new kind of resonance with the evolutionary level in the next three steps. Fortunately, there are lots of examples in biological evolution from which to draw, but civilizational evolution offers new capabilities for analysis and design that organisms cannot attain (to name just two examples, space flight and flexible, nearly-instantaneous global communication), so progress throughout the entire 12-step sequence imposes great challenges on the expression of humanity’s collective free will. 

level 3. evolutionary level (steps 8-10): meta-multicellular resonance with natural dynamics

Humanity is currently sleepwalking through history, behaving like malicious, petulant children playing with flamethrowers, whose prospects for cooperation resemble a worst-case scenario of herding cats! Our own bodies show there is an infinitely better way for us to live. It seems so difficult for us to change that kind of behavior because necessity and God are demanding an entirely new way for humanity to be and act — like multicellular organisms. We are currently behaving like unicellular organisms, at best occasionally in loosely cooperative aggregates, letting inefficient competitive regimes govern our actions, when it’s clear that the same kinds of cooperation we see in our own bodies would allow us to function much better. The early Christians envisioned this transition in theological terms in relation to the body of Christ. 

So, this level of three steps involves evolution toward a meta-multicellular system modeled after what we observe in life, comparing different organisms with different designs and improving on them as we can using our own imagination and ingenuity. As stated previously, we must first find a niche that supports humanity’s thermodynamic needs for extracting energy and depositing entropy, but to progress beyond this stage, we must find resonance with natural dynamics at all higher levels, too. 

I think resonance with nature involves understanding of the theological concept of grace inherent in the Holy Spirit. The early Christians understood that grace is a fragile thing — a spirit, really — that depends on how we treat it and what we put into it. After three centuries of controversy, they settled on an understanding of a monotheistic God in three parts who appeared throughout the Bible: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That landmark conclusion set a precedent in Christianity that God is requiring us to figure out how to make the body of Christ work. They postulated the Trinity works like a dance, called “perichoresis”, from Father to Son to Holy Spirit and back again. 

As mentioned in installment 2, I see the Trinity of Father | Son | and Holy Spirit in terms of past | present | and future, respectively. Note that: (1) this perspective is the only way mortal humans can conceptualize a single timeless God, (2) this framework obviates the confusion and chaos introduced by paganism with multiple gods, (3) as in Christian doctrine, we can imagine a single God speaking to us through those three temporal channels with different advice, like three different Persons, (4) the natural world, lacking memory, awareness, or foresight, has only these three temporal regimes, with which we can consider life’s 4-step process in some kind of “resonance”, and (5) this perspective connects with artificial intelligence perspectives of analytical science and engineering, e.g., in relation to resonance with the natural world (perhaps even as an introduction to frequency domain methods). Significantly, this reasonable perspective of monotheism resolves the mystery of the Trinity in a way that should be acceptable to Islam, healing a significant schism that currently generates great tension between the two major religions of the world. The perspective is also quite compatible with triadic temporalities inherent in Hinduism and many of its offshoots. 

It’s important that we reconnect with these many different theological traditions, not only because a significant majority of the world’s population thinks in those terms instead of scientific concepts, but also because they span the largest temporal expanse of human thought (millennia instead of centuries). We must build bridges between scientific thought that gives full standing to these (and all other) theological foundations. It’s a reflection of my own limitations that I haven’t surveyed all faith (and non-faith) traditions, but have instead started this inquiry in a Christian mold; at this crucial transition in human history, we must think of all humanity functioning as a single civilization. To leave any traditions out would invite treating them as “other” and restarting with a defective foundation, i.e., a “klugey” design. It’s bad enough when consumer products go on the market with such defective designs, but imagine how much worse it would be where the foundations of civilization are concerned, on which all people would come to depend in every aspect of their lives! 

In that regard, it’s probably better that resolution has eluded humanity and then comes together in one sudden “AHA!” moment! I believe God may have created a scientific Tower of Babel to keep us from pulling together all these pieces prematurely. From a scientific standpoint, I have seen from my own research in this exploration that computer, network, and database tools that never had been available before were necessary to assemble such a wide swath of ideas from different disciplines and technologies. Furthermore, my own approach to research is so far off the mainstream as to allow transcending traditional barriers (e.g., dependence on grant funding that pins down researchers in their narrow disciplines). Finally, some of the critical ideas are quite new, e.g., discovery of the bouncing oil droplet model of hydrodynamic quantum analogues in 2005 (which I only learned about a dozen years later). If aspects of the design emerged piecemeal and had been incorporated into all kinds of harmful products and services, it would be hard to disentangle them from civilizational designs. In that setting, ugly, inelegant hybrids would emerge — e.g., parasitic and exploitative “financial services” mixed with good economic designs. Therefore, I think we should take out blocking patents on civilizational designs to prevent them from being exploited commercially during a critical startup phase. 

Here is the relevant excerpt of table 1 that applies to this evolutionary level of the transformational process: 

step currently …… heading toward …
8pastdisrespectknowledge
9presentsleepwalkingmutual sustenance
10futureunconcernhuman potential

level 4. design level (steps 11 and 12): resolution toward a new way of being

Consistent with this last level reflecting civilizational design, let’s review the preceding 10 steps of the transformational sequence. Steps 1-3 involve life’s thermodynamics of self — i.e., the extraction of energy and deposition of entropy that also energize the hydrodynamic quantum analogue of the next level with the “oil droplet’s” upward and downward trajectories, respectively — and also impose unwanted externalities on higher-level steps because energy is extracted from and entropy is vented to the collective level instead of the niche. The magnitude of those externalities, as imposed by corporations, nations, and dictators, is huge and growing. Steps 4-7 derive from quantum behavior of chemical reactions, preserving that structure at each progression at that level of adaptation. Steps 8-10 involve nature’s memoryless temporality, which imposes developmental barriers that human ingenuity must overcome to progress further. 

The overall transition process culminating in step 11 involves revising incentives so absolute accountability for imposed externalities is invariably expected of all agents, consistent with life in a meta-multicellular superorganism (“the body of Christ”, in a theological context). This step establishes a design foundation that ensures the niche (step 1) alone, and no higher steps, will henceforth meet the system’s thermodynamic requirements. That internal discipline starts off the hydrodynamic quantum analogue of collective free will on a good footing with the most possible design freedom. 

The transformation of step 12 sets up all future civilizational transformations by eliminating all existing design flaws and providing maximal design freedom as far as civilizational engineers might envision. Sensitivity to initial conditions of Lyapunov exponents operating over vast civilizational timescales implies that future generations will be highly dependent on our foresight and vision now, at this earliest stage of conscious civilizational design. 

To understand both of the steps of this level, we first review the design mechanism that has existed haphazardly (in which human civilization has been sleepwalking through history) and then imagine how we might refine it to work like a precision instrument capable of fluent, deliberate civilizational evolution in response to any changing conditions that might arise. In this way, we can ensure that all of human civilization has the best features of biological evolution and human analysis and design. 

Finally, as discussed above, we make this design vessel consistent with theological notions of all faith traditions, so different religions effectively form different organs in the body of Christ and all people can engage in a public theological discourse about what’s important for human civilization. Christian evangelicals might envision the process as identifying a reality that makes all religions convert to Christianity; other religions might see mutual compatibilities that establish clear divisions of labor and channels of communication. I believe that God set up different faith traditions anticipating precisely this kind of differentiation and organogenesis. 

From a political standpoint, once-disenfranchised minorities would have standing to ensure civilizational evolution satisfactorily addresses the design flaws of the past; progressives would gravitate toward caring for those alive (of all species) in the present; conservatives would express their desire to steer (but would not have the right to navigate) the design vessel through civilizational state space; and all would participate democratically to navigate the whole process. In fact, since minorities, progressives, and conservatives are thereby partners in managing and navigating the design, we might envision changing government so each standing is represented separately in each legislative jurisdiction, instead of competing for representation. “Constitutional originalism” and “biblical literalism” would have entirely (largely obsolete) meanings in light of this kind of civilizational design, where, to paraphrase the apostle Paul from one of the epistles, “men don’t need rigid laws when the Holy Spirit is written in their hearts.” 

So, how does human civilization stumble along currently and how do we redesign it to function in these new ways? 

Lonergan’s epistemology

As reviewed in installment 2, we begin consideration of steps 11 and 12 (transition and transformation) in light of how humans get to know what we know. Bernard Lonergan worked out an epistemology that reflects gaining responsibility, but as I have already described above, we need something more to emulate the internal discipline and design flexibility of multicellular organism architectures: absolute accountability. Accordingly, as we translate this framework for learning into a channel for humanity’s crude “sloshing through history” like a hydrodynamic quantum analogue, we assume that “being reasonable” is a given and insert “being accountable” at the top of the hierarchy. 

Here was Lonergan’s epistemology: 

level of transcendence retrieving the past moving into the future
D. to decide, be responsibledialectic¯foundations
C. to judge, be reasonablehistory¯doctrines/policies
B. to understand, be intelligentinterpretation¯systematics/plans
A. to experience, be attentiveresearch¯communications/implementations

soliton channels

Here is how history fit into this framework as a crude channel for nonlinear waves, or solitons. I have modified this diagram from installment 2 by renumbering the steps to correspond to those in the transformational sequence of table 1 and adding the labels in the left margin: 

  reconciling the past à … … à moving into the future
D. to coordinate, be accountable7Renaissance8¯ Industrial/scientific revolutions
C. to decide, be responsible6® need to learn how life workslearning from the Black Death9¯ World Wars
B. to understand, be intelligent5learning from the Middle Ages10¯ Information age
A. to experience, be attentive4learning from Trinitarianism11¯ NOW — transition
merge science and spirituality
collective design3Gospels: origin of Christianity in Jesus’ time → the body of Christ12¯ design the body of Christ
thermodynamics2establishment of self ¯
 1humanity’s niche¬¬¬ … ??? ¬¬¬ ¯… (Clear the slate, start again)¬¬¬

civilizational design as a flexible precision instrument

Note how linear time in history is first folded upon itself and then reconnected in a cycle. Since the internal physics are of hydrodynamic quantum analogues, this system has the topology of a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, where the stepwise sequence corresponds to an NMR pulse sequence. This is the analytical structure we sought of a precision, highly flexible instrument, suitable as a design vessel for any arbitrary design beyond this, which might be needed in response to changing evolutionary demands. If relevant, civilizational engineers might model the Bloch experiment for excitation of nuclear spins in spherical coordinates, the instrumentation that performs the experiment, and the sample under investigation; alternatively, any other quantum experiment or its classical approximation might be simulated. NMR spectroscopy is one of the most flexible design vessels of which I’m aware, as evidenced by modification to other spin systems (electron spin resonance, electron paramagnetic resonance, nuclear quadruple resonance, etc.), spectral readouts, and imaging experiments (most notably magnetic resonance imaging). It further lends itself to high efficiency multiplexing in the time and frequency domains, e.g., with volume or selective multislice excitation and fast Fourier or wavelet transform encoding and reconstruction. 

The point is that the way humans learn can be transformed into a topology with great flexibility and precision to learn yet more about nature, life, and civilization. History itself could then be converted into a precision soliton channel through which we learn about ourselves, our past mistakes, and the universe in which we live. There is good evidence that each part of the analysis and design described above is both unique and justified on first principles. And we have not contaminated this civilizational instrument with other applications. Everything that is novel about it could be protected with blocking patents to prevent its commercial exploitation. In short, consistent with our responsibilities to future generations, we have the opportunity to start with the best possible design and the confidence to believe it is optimal. 

For the transformation at hand, this design architecture could address humanity’s pressing needs to reform our niche to be sustainable and eliminate externalities, while also optimizing the entire 12-step transformational sequence in the process. As my colleague John Letcher and I have demonstrated, this design lends itself well to highly flexible optimization methods, most notably taking advantage of the well-known physics and framing tradeoff analysis in terms well suited to artificial intelligence, neural networks, and quantum computation. I have great faith that such insight could transform science, contribute to a public theological dialog, improve living standards, and develop human potential. And as a design vessel, that architecture could be a highly futurable platform from which other transformational sequences could be launched, as needed when humanity needs to adapt, evolve, and design civilization under different evolutionary pressures. 

In terms of the relevant excerpt from table 1, 

11sleepwalkingevolution:knowledge | mutual sustenance | human potential
12obliviousnessdesign: compassion | endless, fluent transformation

Discussion

Civilizational design and evolution are more complex than natural law. I know of no other conceptual framework that has closed the gap between biophysics and social sciences with such breadth and depth. In this installment, I have completed the process of tying the concepts to first principles at foundational levels of thermodynamics and chemical reactions in a way not described before except in bits and pieces, comparable to but far more comprehensive than Adrian Bejan’s constructal law and the Guoy-Stodola entropy theorem. As noted above, this transformational process is the same as Grant Maxwell’s 12-step sequence, identified independently and described only categorically, without any of the “hooks” for further mathematical development. The two independent derivations both give compelling reasons why that sequence should be unique, so in installment 2, I presented variants of the 12-step sequence that could serve different purposes. 

I must admit, it rather surprises me that everything fits together in such a remarkably coherent and detailed narrative. I identified and elaborated the separate pieces separately over wide intervals and only just now pulled them together in this way. I think this framework might be further massaged into a form suitable for deriving differential equations for nature | life | and civilization. 

Best wishes, 

Ray Gangarosa

2019|12|6

Installment 4, prepared for Ann Lam. A general overview of civilizational design and evolution

Ray Gangarosa, MD, MPH, MSEE

December 4, 2019 ff.

I’ll try to keep this installment simpler than the rest, like an introduction to my theory. I’ve tried before to organize some of the more difficult ideas for my own benefit, but I may have lost people in the process. 

Our civilization is undergoing a crisis because it has overexploited its frontiers to rev up the global economy and invent the most powerful technologies ever available in all of history. However, now those frontiers are vanishing, the rich are hoarding and protecting their advantages, and our vaunted technologies are turning toxic against us. Humanity is faced with the uncomfortable prospects of curtailing growth, rationing the benefits of civilization, and constraining powerful technologies. 

This is the same crisis experienced in the transition between unicellular and multicellular designs. We don’t yet understand very well how that transition came about over the long timespans of biological evolution because organisms that illustrate both kinds of behavior exhibit such limited capabilities that barely represent the full advantages of multicellular life. However, when we recognize the similarity between this stage in civilizational evolution and the unicellular-to-multicellular transition in biological evolution, the path forward is clear: 

  • Turning back toward the unicellular paradigm would be disastrous. Primitive organisms that span this transition between unicellular and multicellular states over their life cycles undergo mass die-offs of large subsets of cells in their bodies. Even worse, embryos that don’t negotiate this transition are miscarried and die. Literally, the only viable option is to push forward and learn how to manage in the multicellular paradigm. 
  • The biological and civilizational realms provide complementary opportunities for studying the principles that underlie both. We can see possibilities better in the biological realm because life has gone through this transition. However, we have more data and access to underlying processes in the civilizational realm. 
  • We also need to remain aware about differences between civilizational and biological evolution that could give humanity more opportunities, wider possibilities, and greater capabilities. Biological evolution is aimless, brutal, glacially slow, haphazard, toxic to unsuited species, corrosive to successful species, and typically mired in one incremental advance at a time. It also can result in loss of some capabilities, e.g., limb and organ regeneration after the stage of amphibians like salamanders. Civilizational evolution offers the chance to engage human creativity on multiple fronts at a time but, as we’ll see, also demands new kinds of discipline that humanity has never exhibited before. Specifically, we have the option of designing the features we need in our civilization, but we must also remove others that are toxic to its future. 

Let’s establish a couple definitions: 

  • definition 1a: civilizational design — the explicit, conscious synthesis of cultural and societal features deemed to be important with the intention to incorporate them permanently into the entire future course of human history
  • definition 1b: civilizational evolution — the study and analysis of all other aspects of the dynamics of the entire history of life and humanity over all time, past, present, and future, as it pertains to the course of human events

It’s clear from these definitions what the stakes are at this abrupt juncture when humanity first takes on the responsibility of explicitly designing human civilization: In terms of the universal pattern I’ve identified, those potential pitfalls are: 

  1. past. sensitivity to initial conditions — Tiny, even seemingly insignificant, differences in the first choice of design can propagate through all future designs over indefinite timescales. One analysis I read noted how the diameter of rocket boosters in space exploration and military intercontinental ballistic missiles are constrained by the width of roads, which can be traced back to ancient times as the dimensions of a harness for two oxen! In other cases, instabilities can increase exponentially as Lyapunov exponents of chaotic systems.
  2. present. uncertain choices — It may not be clear how to design a system, what the variables are, how to trade off between them, etc.
  3. future. obsolescence — One of the worst pitfalls of design, besides unexpected and catastrophic failure, is the bottleneck of future obsolescence. For civilizational design, that pitfall could be especially serious, in that it might fundamentally limit what future generations can achieve with civilization but, on the other hand, making changes to correct such limitations would require intervening generations to scrap everything they depend on and start over from scratch
  4. irreversibility. permanence — The process of design often requires a commitment to establish a permanent transformation, often based on incomplete information and ambiguous tradeoffs
  5. higher-level past. incompatible tradeoffs — Design challenges become exponentially more difficult when conflicting variables cannot be reconciled within the same design, typically resulting in disputes about how to proceed between different constituencies
  6. higher-level present. conflicts in changing specifications — As time goes on, a design typically becomes more capable, but if different design paths lead to different design capabilities, different constituencies can disagree how to proceed
  7. higher-level future. disagreement about long-term goals — A design process can stall when different constituencies can’t agree where it should eventually lead

Obviously from these points, civilizational design would require a great deal of consensus about how to proceed. The tremendous polarization in democracies throughout the world seems to quash hope that such consensus is possible. The deepest conflicts arise because of differences in religious doctrine, especially because of opposing stands taken by secularists and fundamentalists in the United States. 

However, I propose that the polarization results from the transitional process itself, and the natural process of transforming from an extremely low-capability unicellular state to an incomparably higher-capability and infinitely higher-potential multicellular state prescribes the transitional path, especially since (almost) all the players have much better roles afterwards. Indeed, as illustrated by the prototypical example of embryogenesis, the transition itself moves the characters from intense competition bordering on conflict to natural cooperation guided by internal signaling set up by the preceding tensions. And from the religious standpoint that seems to pose such serious barriers, we can regard the process in terms of designing the body of Christ — which sets up a theological dialog that respects differences between religions in terms of forming different organ systems. The design criteria can be reframed in many different ways — mathematical, physical, engineering, theological — in terms of establishing a basis for lasting harmony at all levels for all life. The transformation to a meta-multicellular state will establish a platform for further changes that would have been unimaginable in our current quasi-unicellular condition, but we owe it to future generations to expand our design vision as much as possible, so as not to saddle human civilization with severe design defects resulting from our hubris. Most expansively, we can regard this process as establishing co-creative partnership with God in building His kingdom on earth. It doesn’t take a Christian perspective to regard things in those terms, but if we think of theology as expanding human perspectives to the most important issues we can consider, this process could serve to crystallize a universal theological conversation to guide humanity along its future path. 

As explained previously, social systems are commonly governed by the Schrödinger equation in the neurochemical realm and its equivalent formulation at higher levels in the hydrodynamic realm, the Madelung equation, which both describe wave and multilevel inheritance relationships. Those equations manifest as particles bouncing on “sloshing” waves influenced by two components of a spatial potential V, pilot waves (resulting from the bouncing particles) and guiding waves (resulting from externally applied forces). In addition, human choices can result in phase changes in the waves themselves, which might be regarded in terms of abruptly changing the viscosity of the wave medium, as if to change some of a sloshing liquid like water either to a gas or to a solid. Another form of wave function collapse, more readily visible in the hydrodynamic model, could be turbulent wave behavior induced by high sonication amplitudes, which might be considered an artificial, very noisy kind of phase change. 

Social systems might handle such phase changes in various ways that could deviate from purely physical models. For example, in the case under discussion, disappearance of frontiers may simply remove opportunities, correspondingly reducing the magnitude of the wave function. Technology may simultaneously increase the potential function for people who still have opportunities, but even their jobs are threatened by automation technologies. Within the lifespans of people alive today, artificial intelligence and robotics will likely exceed human capabilities, putting everyone’s livelihood at risk. 

We might think of this phase change in relation to some of the wave function boiling off as a gas, but the process may not disturb the sloshing waves in quite the same way as in a physical system (e.g., because “gravity” may not manifest the same way), so we may not be able to rely on our intuitions to conceptualize the dynamics. Nonetheless, we can see how the terms of the Schrödinger equation produce the 7-step universal sequence that I’ve identified for civilizational systems. We use the time-dependent Schrödinger equation for a single nonrelativistic particle to apply to human civilization as a whole, where relativity does not apply in causal feedback loops and the potential function typically changes over historical timescales: 

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

(rt) term = ò history dt — cumulative effects of past influences — societal potential

ÑY term — present structure — static component of wave motion

Yt term — change → future — moving component of wave motion

Y phase change — irreversibility of human actions — e.g., in this case, disappearance of frontiers

At higher levels, the hydrodynamic behavior of the Schrödinger and Madelung equations in natural systems seldom if ever includes irreversible phase change, so the second run through the equation has only three steps, corresponding to higher-level past | present | future. By omitting irreversible phase changes, nature keeps life in harmony with corrective feedback, but not in ways acceptable to us humans, because such dynamics can manifest with wide compensatory swings that can cause mass die-offs or extinctions. 

From a mathematical standpoint, the past | present | future structure of steps 1-3 represents a linear, time-variant system, which is hard to analyze theoretically but usually amenable to simulation studies. The irreversible phase changes of step 4 introduce nonlinearities that can relate to wave function collapse, either through real phase change or induced turbulence. The combination of all four steps, or all seven steps, can very often exhibit chaotic behavior and therefore be exquisitely sensitive to initial conditions. 

However, the phase changes made by irreversible human actions must be compatible with natural processes or no further transformation will be possible. Just as we are experiencing now in our frustrated state, all progress will be stalled — and human responses will tend to reflect irrational reaction (e.g., in our time, the resurgence of dictatorships) rather than insight. The challenge here is to remain in an analytical mindset to determine the cause of the dynamic blockage and keep an open mind about how to advance beyond it — because, as argued above, the only viable way through this unicellular-like impasse is to push through it and learn how life operates in the multicellular-like mode on the other side. 

An inheritance relationship arises with transformation because the same process resets itself at the next higher level, doing so time and again for each successive transformation. Thus, the 7-step developmental process and its 12-step originating sequence are scale-invariant, manifesting at all levels from the neurochemical to the civilizational. Thus, as stated above, the Schrödinger equation starts with the behavior of chemical interactions at the neurological level and proceeds through every successive level to global-scale wave phenomena under the influence of human and terrestrial forces. 

And so, the same equations will apply on the other side of our current transition, in the multicellular-like state, giving us a hint how to proceed. We can understand that process biologically as a phase change in the wave function Y from unicellular-like operation to the emergence of a multicellular-like structure, as occurs in a human embryo during days 16-18, when the mesoderm migrates to form a new layer between the endoderm and ectoderm. 

Given the scale invariance described above for this process, it’s not surprising that the developing human civilization should follow the same dynamics as an embryo. Furthermore, it behooves us to follow the pattern prescribed by life so future generations will also find models to emulate in biology, health, and medicine. Finally, that correspondence fits with scriptural and theological doctrine that God created man in His image. 

In the correspondence between embryology and civilization, minorities play the role of mesoderm, which is destined to become the muscles and organs; conservatives play the role of the ectoderm, which is destined to become the skin and brain; and progressives play the role of the endoderm, which is destined to become the gut. These correspondences relate to the roles that minorities, conservatives, and progressives currently play in our unicellular-like state: once-oppressed minorities remaining sensitive and fragile because of past treatment, progressives favoring a nurturant role in the present, and conservatives intending to steer the organism to determine its future. 

However, it’s noteworthy that, in both organism and superorganism, the whole is so dependent on the health of all its parts that all together determine the overarching function of navigation. In the multicellular body, the skin and brain become exquisitely sensitive to pain, so the price they pay for steering the organism is becoming responsible for its well-being. As a result, the former ectoderm — and conservatives after the transition — must relinquish most of the function of navigation to minorities and progressives. 

We can also see from these comparisons how the tensions in the current unicellular-like mode set the stage for the final structure and function of the evolving superorganism of human civilization. The different functions are not in opposition, but rather a division of labor. In human civilization, the categories are more abstract, so any given person can start in one category and move to another, but the overall flow is the same. 

I believe that a timeless God sets up conditions in human civilization based on needed midcourse corrections. For example, to teach humanity everything that we’ve been doing wrong at this critical inflection point, God conditioned Vladimir Putin to degenerate Russia back to its Soviet-like dictatorship and corruption and set up Donald Trump’s dissolute personality to remind the United States what’s necessary to ward off corruption. We only see a small snippet of time moving forward during our lifetimes, so we cannot envision an overall structure to civilization without understanding an analytical model that spans all levels and all timescales. 

An analytical perspective clarifies how a timeless God might design our civilization and yet leave room for human free will. He may have a vision of a design from the beginning to the end of time, like a lifespan from evolution to lineage to conception to embryogenesis to birth to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to old age to death. We might consider the harmonizing effect of God in terms of the historical momentum that influences culture and society, e.g., catalyzing electronic communication that resembles a civilizational nervous system and conditioning the characters of influential leaders who instruct humanity of our ideal civilizational mandate and our flaws. God’s steady intervention might have greatest influence at civilizational inflection points, i.e., eras when the design is in stress and crisis from an engineering standpoint, or equivalently, when the wave dynamics are at a stationary point in a standing wave, or equivalently, when the mathematical optimization is at a point when multiple perspectives converge to identify design specifications. We currently live at just such an inflection point. 

God has provided us enough examples over the course of history where human perspectives have failed, which can serve as experiments from which we can learn His will through knowledge rather than blind belief or subjective prayer, which never have been reliable ways to establish public clarity or consensus. For example, the Greek colony in Libya called Cyrene was so dependent on marketing the aphrodisiac, contraceptive, and abortifacient silphium that it imprinted the plant’s image on nearly all its coins. The plant was said to be worth its weight in gold. The Romans harvested the plant to extinction. No biblical authors protested its use during that time. Meanwhile, they did comment frequently about sexuality in terms of promiscuity, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, so we know they weren’t avoiding the subject. We can presume that they didn’t have an axe to grind about contraception or abortion, contrary to Church policy through the ages and fundamentalist revisionism in our time. 

If we assume that the most important aspects of human civilization are guided by purposiveness, then God seems to have conjured a perfect experiment for sending a message to our time that He places far more emphasis on the embryogenesis of human civilization than on the viability of every human fetus. Contrary to what evolved as Catholic doctrine, birth control is a natural function of human existence and all life. God also seems to indicate a transition in our time that we must break from biblical literalism while still respecting the messages and insights of ancient authors. 

Our troubled times

It’s hard to remember that democracy was steadily advancing throughout the world through the end of the 20th century. Now dictatorship has roared back with a vengeance and democracies are struggling from internal discord and external attack. 

The United States is facing a demographic transition that no democracy, including our own, has ever successfully negotiated — when a majority population is about to become a minority. After the Civil War, the South resisted this transition violently, countering a few years of Reconstruction with Jim Crow laws that terrorized freed former slaves. The former slaveowners dared to call that reign of terror they were imposing their “deliverance”. Having already seen that reprehensible era as, in many ways worse than the oppression of slavery, we should know not to go back there. 

We have seen how one party, catering to that majority’s fear, has relegated to a concerted campaign of disinformation and propaganda. The Republican party has followed the conservative news media in an all-out assault on the truth, conjuring an alternate reality that has continued a 40-year race-to-the-bottom. That downward spiral has attracted a series of ever-worse Republican leaders, culminating now in Donald Trump. 

The anxiety of the majority is also reflected in the self-preservation of the rich. Powerful new technologies should make this the richest time in human history, but instead poverty is more prevalent that in recent history because of the widening gap between rich and poor. Automation further threatens the poor with job loss but leaves even the wealthy insecure about their long-term prospects. 

All these trends are just like the migration of the mesoderm into a new space between the ectoderm and endoderm that will form the muscles and internal organs of a superorganism. In our past unicellular-like mode, those constituencies were independent, but now the frontiers have vanished, and their fates have converged into that of a single civilization. Minorities can no longer be oppressed to buffer the living standards of the rich, nor can minorities revolt and displace the rich. As the world is interconnected with near-instantaneous communication and rapid transportation, we can no longer consider different subcultures having different fates and incompatible civilizations. 

Humanity has coalesced inevitably into a single civilization. The old design is fully stressed, and its crisis shows us from multiple perspectives how it has to be changed to continue to survive. 

Early historic insights into the causes of disappearing frontiers

In the late 19th century, Henry George was the third most famous person in the United States, after Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. Henry George ran for mayor of New York in a crowded field of candidates that included Theodore Roosevelt. Both lost, but the race convinced the corrupt powers that be that Roosevelt was a particularly dangerous firebrand that threatened their vested interest, so they parked him in a position where he had no power and could do no harm. They made him vice president, but President William McKinley’s assassination propelled Teddy Roosevelt into the limelight, where he championed his brand of progressivism that swept away the gilded age. If conditions had been a little different, those corrupt powers might have done the same thing to Henry George instead, and people would remember him as vividly now as they do Theodore Roosevelt. 

George’s real claim to fame was his economic theory, called Georgism, that he described in the most popular economics book of all time, Progress and poverty. In that gilded age of robber barons, rampant political corruption, and teeming slums, George advanced the radical idea that the remarkable technological progress of his day was actually exacerbating poverty. George claimed that labor and capital form a natural alliance that can propel the economy vigorously, but that land speculation led to monopolistic practices that constrained economic progress, caused episodic depressions, and reduced large populations to poverty. 

He proposed that local communities manage their land and rent it to market bidders. He also strongly advocated a single tax, wherein public revenues would be raised from such rents and used to provide government services. That single tax on rented land would be easy to administer and would avoid the economically suppressive effects and perverse incentives of taxes on labor, income, or wealth. The land tax would be assessed on the undeveloped value of the land, which would give the local community and user of the land the opportunity to pay the tax easily by developing the land in productive ways. 

Georgism was a brilliant refutation not only of savage capitalism, but also of two unpopular theories of his day and ours, socialism and social Darwinism. It featured the optimism and reform of progressivism within a context that brought out the best features of market economies without the worst features of capitalisme sauvage

Ending property rights makes sense in the transition between unicellular and multicellular operating modes. When individual cells operate independently, they often need to stake out territory, but within the nurturing structures of a multicellular organism, the body becomes a commons. During the transition, when interdependence starts becoming a dominant effect, claims on property have to give way to construction of the multicellular support structures. Before that is done, land ownership exerts toxic effects from perverse economic incentives and inheritance rights that interfere with development of the commons. 

Georgism met its downfall by ruffling the feathers of some of the richest and most powerful people. In the wake of the American Civil War, Henry George compared land ownership to slavery and proposed confiscating property rights. Landowners of the day commissioned economists to protect their property against this popular assault. Neoclassical economics arose in large part as an effort to erase all cultural memory of Georgism, proposing the idea that land was just another form of capital. Aided by all the other distractions of the 20th century’s world wars, technology, and upheaval, the alternative universe proposed by neoclassical economics succeeded in making people completely forget about Georgism. Hardly anyone has even heard of Georgism, no economics departments teach its principles, and old editions of Progress and poverty just collect dust on library shelves. 

The return of the relevance of Georgism as an echo of past mistakes

What makes Georgism so relevant today is that Henry George anticipated the New World’s disappearing frontiers, based on his observations about how the Old World’s long-collapsed frontiers had constricted their economies. Seen from a century of hindsight, the intervening World Wars and Cold War were further natural mechanisms to dissipate tensions from collapsing frontiers of a civilization struggling in the final throes of its unicellular-like mode. International institutions like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations have kept the peace for many decades since then, but population, ecological, and economic pressures have renewed the tensions, bringing back an echo of the gilded age of Henry George’s time. 

The modern edition of Progress and poverty cites a prescient quote that describes what is happening in the United States today: 

The British historian Thomas Macaulay (1800-1859) predicted that after all the decent land had been claimed in the United States, poverty would reach the levels it did in England. The nation would then destroy itself through its own democratic institutions. “The Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman empire came from without; your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions [because]… There is nothing to stop you. Your constitution is all sail and no anchor.” (Letter to Henry S. Randall, biographer of Thomas Jefferson.)

George, Henry. Progress and Poverty (modern edition) . Robert Schalkenbach Foundation. Kindle Edition. 

at location 3997 of 4247

Georgism is returning as a civilizational echo because the early neoclassical economists, commissioned by landowners to equate land and capital, were dead wrong. Consistent with the historical pressures that attacked Georgism, rich people tend to own both land and capital, but the dynamics of those two things obviously are completely different. The differences become increasingly striking when land becomes scarce, i.e., when frontiers disappear. Thus, Henry George’s prescient predictions that the American economy would collapse if land ownership continued are coming true in our time. 

Later neoclassical economists got another thing badly wrong. The pioneer of their theory, Alfred Marshall, advised that economists looked to organisms and ecosystems for ideal models on which to base economic theories and failure modes on which to understand pathological states, but biology was not well understood in that day. So, economists looked to physics for their models and turned to increasingly arcane mathematical abstractions. Over time, their models diverged more and more from natural dynamics, stressing the global economy and putting it in crisis. The potential function V introduced more and more cumulative dysfunction, sending harmful ripples everywhere through human civilization. 

The increasing distress of democracies emboldened dictators to undermine democratic nations and their international institutions through cyberattacks. Democracies had mastered the problem of avoiding world wars, but computer technologies and the Internet provided new tools for dictators to assert their power with little cost or risk. 

To see how Georgism differs from capitalism, we can turn to one of its most earnest advocates, Lizzie Magie, a stenographer, abolitionist’s daughter, and polymath feminist who invented The landlord’s game to popularize a comparison between “land-grabbing capitalism” and Georgist economics. Although Magie didn’t receive credit or royalties, The landlord’s game was the precursor for the board game MonopolyThe landlord’s game was more versatile, in that it could be played in “land-grabbing” mode of Monopoly or with a Georgist single tax on land rents. As in Monopoly, land-grabbing mode would yield only one winner and bankrupt all the other players, but when played in Georgist mode, the game would end when all players became rich. Magie estimated she only made $500 from her invention, which cost more to develop than that. She wished her legacy would be that people would recognize the corrosiveness of savage capitalism that every game of Monopoly demonstrates. 

During Henry George’s time, farmers were especially leery of Georgism, given their connection to the land. However, in our era of highly mechanized agriculture, farmers could sell their machinery to communities and hire out their services as traveling experts and journeymen. Under those circumstances, farmers could take on the role of multicellular support structures under Georgism, giving them the best of all worlds over all civilizational time — the freedom of hunter-gatherers, the agricultural output of free enterprise, and the fluidity of markets. Georgism most benefits those who derive their income from labor and/or capital and taxes those who profit from rent. Renters could invite labor and capital to develop the land to pay those taxes, but some provisions will likely have to be made to compensate landowners for their property. If Georgism lives up to its potential for enhancing the economy without degrading the environment, current landowners could be reimbursed from the public’s future financial gains. 

Georgism is not the last word

There still may be a serious problem with Georgism that is more obvious in our era than in Henry George’s — it would supercharge the economy with positive incentives for economic activity in all three of its realms, labor, capital, and land, but would not address negative externalities, viz., the social costs imposed by harmful commerce. While most communities would have incentives to preserve the local ecologies of unused land, they might not care quite as much about pollution that extends beyond its boundaries, like carbon pollution that causes global warming. The land tax could be adjusted high enough to pay for government action on climate change, but that is an indirect and likely inefficient regulatory control. To remedy this deficiency fully, corporations should have a fiduciary obligation to pay for all social costs and harm attributable to their commerce. Thus, all four economic realms — land, labor, capital, and externalities — would have maximally constructive incentives for beneficial commerce, thereby allowing society to address its challenges in the best possible way. 

It’s easy to see why Georgism is relevant from dynamic and biological standpoints by comparing it in relation to the civilizational designs of failed and failing economic theories. As usual, my theory of civilizational design postulates four dynamic factors: 

past: land

present: labor

future: capital

irreversibility: externalities

We’ll see shortly that there are theological issues beyond those four lower-level factors: 

higher-level past: human potential

higher-level present: ˆcivilizational transformation

higher-level future: civilizational design

Of the competing ideological economic regimes, communism failed first because it only fully recognized one dynamic factor, labor. Capitalism is now failing fast because it lumps labor and capital together and underemphasizes labor, thereby getting out of sync with nature’s dynamics. Democratic socialism separates labor and capital in a way that is much less confrontational than communism, but it doesn’t fully articulate how they can work together and doesn’t address the issues of land ownership. Georgism would have recognized land, labor, and capital in some kind of harmonious framework but wouldn’t have fully addressed externalities. Thus, we need a revised neo-Georgism that fully addresses all four factors. 

Yet it seems beneficial that Georgism wasn’t implemented in Henry George’s time. Although the intervening historical mistakes inflicted great suffering on a global scale, humanity needed to learn exactly what was at stake, in the existential threats of world wars, nuclear catastrophe, climate crisis, etc. If Georgism had been implemented earlier, it would have become intertwined with many other defective decisions along the way, resulting in a sloppy design that would likely limit the precise correction that is possible now if the all right changes are made all at once. 

In that regard, it seems God had a purpose in mind when he advanced Theodore Roosevelt as the champion of progressivism instead of Henry George. This is another instance that makes me think a timeless God has a preconceived design in mind for human civilization and is setting up conditions that implement it, despite the noise introduced by human free will. 

Not so fast, though! 

A scientific theory of neo-Georgism can’t be the last word, however. We also need to reconcile that scientific form of neo-Georgism with humanity’s entire past history and the evolution of life long before that. Therein enter the three theological factors added above, plus future transformations beyond this economic one. 

There are different timescales for different aspects of human existence, which cannot be ignored. Science has been a powerful force in human history for only a few hundred years; theology has been around a few thousand years; hominid biology for a few hundreds of thousand years; mammalian biology some tens of millions of years; and biology for a few billion years. 

Perhaps the most succinct and parsimonious way to capture all these timescales at once is to label them the work of God and postulate that they can be harmonized for all life over all time. That perspective, which I will adopt in The prodigal species, can be regarded under mathematical, physical, and/or theological disciplines, respectively, in terms of a optimization ideal, a dynamic process, and/or a Supreme Being. I will present that comparison in more detail in the theological section of the book, but for this introduction, I will reconsider the confusing roots of Judaism, which are the farthest from a modern perspective of economics. 

The God described in the Old Testament — jealous, wrathful, boastful, and seemingly petty despite being omniscient and omnipotent — seems distant and foreign to modern sensibilities. The character of Jesus in the New Testament seems more accessible — patient, welcoming, self-sacrificing beyond human comprehension. However, neither character is recognizable in modern neoclassical game theory — selfish, amoral, and indifferent to a fault. 

I propose reconciling all these perspectives in a biological context looking at human civilization as a superorganism. I will choose the most obvious and straightforward application (which also elicits a lot of confusion) — the Ten Commandments. 

This is a particularly good example because some of the commandments seem hopelessly anachronistic, when posed in the setting of individual interactions. Why would there be commandments for only accepting one God, for not swearing at Him, for setting aside a day of worship? As it turns out, those commandments were prescient in having more relevance in our time than they did in ancient times when they were written. However, to complete this comparison, we have to consider them in a different context than did the original authors — the context of electronic communications on the Internet in relation to an evolving, gestating, living quasi-biological system at the level of all human civilization. The original authors of the Bible could not have anticipated the degree to which the most seemingly foreign of these commandments attain new meaning in our time on an organizational scale they probably could not have imagined in their societies: 

I. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 

Just as for all the cells within a multicellular organism, everyone must recognize only one overarching supreme life force that provides guidance for human actions and harmonizes all events on our planet and across the universe. Nowadays, we can look at God’s harmonization of life as a mathematical ideal for optimization algorithms, a dynamic physical process that reconciles conflicting tradeoffs, a biological process that tempers selfishness to allow dependent agents to cooperate, or as a Supreme Being whose highest priority is human civilization. 

II. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 

In a superstitious age, casting a curse against God would have been an egregious affront. 

In our age, such a lingering or permanent curse would correspond to sabotaging the design of God’s kingdom by inserting invasive, pathogenic memes into the memome (“memetic genome”) of the body of Christ, so future generations could unwittingly or maliciously retrieve and deploy those ideas. This insertion of foreign, harmful instructions occurs the way a virus might insert DNA that becomes an oncogene that can be released at any future time to cause cancer. That would happen easily with malicious electronic communications, e.g., tweets that go viral. Thus, this prescient commandment applies to all the electronic messages we are sending that are disrupting civilizational development and design — e.g., propaganda and disinformation that masquerades as news; denial of scientific truth; xenophobic racist, homophobic, or otherwise hateful diatribes; hacking and cyberattacks; flames against ideological foes; (perhaps) violent movies and video games; etc. Thus, for example, the memory of Adolf Hitler has been inserted into the DNA of human civilization and gets raised repeatedly by neo-Nazis to scapegoat immigrants for unrelated societal disequilibria. To the extent that these interpersonal communications and cultural influences provoke people to act against the operation of the body of Christ, even in future generations, they are harmful to building the kingdom of God. 

III. Remember thou keep holy the Lord’s day. 

Observing the Sabbath relates to forming human networks outside of everyday business, to extend and enrich the connective web for constructing the kingdom of God. We can think of civilizational evolution as the growth of a network in “life-time” (analogous to space-time), which relates to how people’s lives interact over time to solidify irreversible phase changes, both beneficial and harmful, that become the kingdom of God. Meeting people in a religious setting hopefully primes them to skew their interpersonal interactions toward beneficial outcomes. And in the early days of Judaism and Christianity, before both religions reached critical mass, this commandment was important in keeping the faiths from going extinct. In our time, it may catalyze theological public discourse that can focus human actions on addressing current challenges and existential threats. 

IV. Honor thy father and thy mother. 

Respect the geneal networks that brought you into existence, not only as a matter of caring for the elderly but also of representing them well on earth and in the network of God’s kingdom. 

There could also be a subtle lesson about the nature of salvation in this commandment. The patterns passed down to us through interpersonal contacts, especially in families, live after us in those we contact. “Salvation” may result when the patterns we have lived contribute positively to human civilization, while “damnation” may result when our lifelong patterns cause great harm to future generations. Setting forth a commandment that promotes intergenerational cooperation may have established a cooperative environment in which beneficial patterns are preferentially incorporated into the networks of human civilization that become the kingdom of God. 

V. Thou shalt not kill. 

Don’t disrupt the forming networks of God’s kingdom with violent acts that terminate abruptly the dynamic flow of events. This commandment, like those that follow, assumes that God is harmonizing human civilization, e.g., through the dynamics of culture and society. In that setting, it’s important to issue warnings not to let rebellious free will to interrupt those processes prematurely. By the same token, suicide takes one’s own life out of circulation before it can interact with ongoing dynamics, exerting free will to disrupt harmonization events that are underway. 

VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

Don’t disrupt the forming networks of God’s kingdom with immoral acts that disrupt the natural flow of familial events and interrelationships. 

VII. Thou shalt not steal.

Don’t disrupt the resource flows in the forming networks of God’s kingdom with selfish acts. 

VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 

Don’t disrupt the internal signaling of the network of God’s kingdom with falsehoods and disinformation. When such disruptions occur in chemical signaling in developing fetuses, the internal program that lays down body structures fails, development stops, and the pregnancy miscarries. This commandment is particularly relevant in our era with the sudden emergence of foreign cyberattacks, ideologically motivated news media, propagandistic messages, and the like. We are also seeing how a torrent of lies has supported demagogues and compromised democracy. By comparison to this threat in fetal development, we can see how these influences pose existential threats to human civilization. 

IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. 

Don’t aspire to alter the genealogical flow of life and civilization that God has been harmonizing. 

X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. 

Don’t aspire to alter the material flow of life and civilization that God has been harmonizing. 

I think the breadth of these commandments, extending thousands of years to a completely different and rapidly changing time that biblical authors could not have imagined, must have been inspired by a timeless harmonizing influence of a single, omniscient, omnipotent God. That God seems to have anticipated the emergence of technological advances that seem miraculous even in our time, having lived through their rapid development. Imagine having written them into commandments at a time when people only communicated by voice and traveled by foot or donkey! I think this is evidence a timeless God is making midcourse corrections on a civilizational design He has already preconceived and has firmly in mind, despite the messes we make of it with our rebellious free wills. 

This is a simple example showing how an analytical perspective of harmonizing dynamics and optimization processes can lead to reconciliation between science and theology. I will present much better examples later, but this example also shows how much further this analysis can go than neoclassical economic game theory. 

To put this example in perspective, consider how much has been revealed to humanity since the Ten Commandments were described a few thousand years ago: 

  • Two cycles have been completed in Judeo-Christian doctrine, and I believe a third cycle is about to begin, in which knowledge can substitute for some aspects of blind faith so humanity can better understand reality and attain agreement. 
  • Judaism and Christianity both attained critical mass, so the importance of belief has shifted from avoiding extinction of the faith to improving the quality of a general theological dialog to make humanity a better citizen in the biosphere. 
  • Judaism and Christianity are revelatory religions, believing that God reveals more insight into His nature and humanity’s mission over historical timescales. 
  • To use a computer analogy, Judaism played the role of an assembly language, bootstrapping monotheism as an alternative to the chaotically unmanageable worldview of paganism. Monotheism admits the perspective that a solution exists to the harmonization of human civilization. 
  • Christianity proposed that a more flexible solution exists to the harmonization of human civilization, one based on compassion and wisdom. The epistles of the New Testament even suggest that laws are unnecessary to understand what God wants of us if “the Holy Spirit is written in people’s hearts”. 
  • We can think of the Holy Spirit somewhat, but not entirely, as being the interdependent web of existence, operating by providing “grace” in a continuous feedback loop with the stern God of the Old Testament and the compassionate Savior of the New Testament. With that rough picture in which the feedback loop encompasses past | present | and future, we can imagine that the current crisis in human civilization results from not fully understanding life’s interdependencies | putting grace into appropriate theological and scientific perspectives | and respecting the frail capacities of the Holy Spirit. 
  • In particular, the grace the Holy Spirit provides is exquisitely sensitive to the integrity we put into our own future. Nazi Germany intensified oppression and genocide to new levels and sucked grace out of its culture and society; the American Marshall Plan restored trust among former enemies and reinfused grace into the European alliance. 
  • In civilization as in life, God places great emphasis on grace as sustenance, health, growth, and harmony, in the evolution, embryo, and organism stages — and not in economic growth that resembles cancer. Accordingly, we should shift our view of economics to favor spontaneous emergence of “grace frontiers”. That change in perspective might also appropriately narrow the gap between rich and poor and harness large accumulations of wealth to design and develop civilizational structures that open up grace frontiers. 
  • Civilizational design flaws and failure states may correspond to pathological processes and disease conditions. For example, automatic firearms invented for World Wars I and II have been the price of autoimmunity that we are now paying for ignoring Georgism and letting economic factors get out of balance. 
  • The Republican party’s 40-year race-to-the-bottom, culminating in the Trump administration, provides new insights into how God shows His wrath against a stubborn people — He lets their hubris sabotage their own fate. The dynamics of their beliefs get out of step with the dynamics of nature. Herein lies a message about when to use science and when to use theology. Climate change is reality; faith is a conviction about the supportive nature of God, but the two are not interchangeable, as fundamentalists’ wishful thinking maintains. Further, it gives insight how to look for warning signs that beliefs are getting out of touch with reality. 
  • Human knowledge used for the analyses and syntheses of scientific theology can develop along four complementary lines: empiricism | simulation | theory | and design. Each line of development would play a different role in the scientific contribution to theology. 
  • Human knowledge provides unique advantages that belief and prayer don’t have at a civilizational level for discerning reality and reaching consensus for design purposes. It circumvents ambiguity that allows understanding of past experiences, most notably past errors, establishes a basis for avoiding future mistakes, and constructs a kind of “conceptual ratchet” that keeps ideas from going backwards. All these functions play crucial roles in the dynamic processes that sustain living organisms. Science has also used these functions in many design contexts, forming a bridge between life and engineering sciences that can be developed for civilizational design. 
  • Humanity has about a decade left to forestall the climate crisis. No economic theory has yet been proposed that can change human behavior at the level of the entire civilization so fast. 
  • Yet, if we limit human response just to the global environmental crisis during this crucial inflection point, we will adopt a perspective of civilization that is so limited that we will compromise its design for future generations. 
  • Dictators like Vladimir Putin have appropriated ownership of the state, in his case by gaining possession of the Soviet empire’s assets. He has used that ownership to enslave Russia and threaten democracies around the world. He has used all the design innovations and technological progress since Henry George’s day — from computers to the Internet to social media — to subvert civilizational evolution. All those tools at his disposal are wrapped up in the design flaw of land ownership. 
  • There is a tendency to look at human problems in narrow, shortsighted, confrontational terms that merely extend unicellular-like operation. For example, while I espouse progressive theology, I think progressive politics is too mired in a socialistic mindset that has lost the lessons of Georgism, theology, and biology. As a result, the battles it picks — e.g., with healthcare, employment, politics, vision — are too shortsighted and too out of sync with natural processes. To take this perspective of a battle between progressives and conservatives to a realization that the system is evolving into a multicellular cooperative mode requires an entirely different mindset, which builds entirely different infrastructures conceptualized as the kingdom of God. 
  • The risk we face is saddling most future generations with a civilizational design that will become a kludge. In engineering slang, a kludge is a design that is so clumsy and inelegant that it almost surely would be better to scrap the whole thing and start over from scratch. We see how disruptive kludgy designs can be when we try to correct design flaws in consumer products, but just imagine how much worse that correction process would be in the realm of civilizational design, where all worldviews, infrastructures, interrelationships, interdependencies, and so much more, all have to be completely scrapped and revised for everybody! 
  • Can we accomplish such a broad and sweeping change of mindset rapidly and completely enough? I think the only way to frame this mandate is to realize that the future result will be exquisitely sensitive to what we do over the next few years, so we have a profound responsibility to leave future generations with a sound civilizational design instead of a kludge. 
  • It is reassuring to believe that a timeless God already has a civilizational design in mind for humanity, is making midcourse corrections at crucial times to compensate for the messes we make with our rebellious free wills, and has left clues for us how to proceed at every turn in nature, life, and civilization. It seems plausible that those clues appeal to our intuitions but also require knowledge and analysis that are readily accessible to us, so we can reach consensus to develop the civilizational design. It seems likely that the analogy of a multicellular body, widely used in scriptures and recognized as an ideal even by economists, is the right place to start. We can imagine the stages of life over huge timescales — from evolution to lineage to conception to gestation to birth to infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood to middle age to old age to deathbed to death to afterlife — informs us of the stages to anticipate. It behooves us not to stray too far from such a model, lest we lose a rich source of examples to emulate. 

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