David Fuller: That was my question – how do we give people a sense of that connection beyond themselves, to give them a felt sense of that connection to the natural world and to what they depend on?
Daniel Schmachtenberger: An important thing about homo sapiens, that is different than all the other species as far as we know, is – you look at a horse and it´s up and walking in 20 minutes.
And it takes a human a year to walk. When you think about how we can be helpless for that long, evolutionarily, right, think about how many 20 minute segments go into a year – to think about how many multiples of helpessness that is. And even a gorilla or a chimpanzee can hold on to it mums fur in the first few minutes and we can´t move our head for three months. We are fetals for a very long time.
And the reason is because all the other animals evolved to fit in an environmental niche – we are niche creators who went to the arctic, who went to the islands, who went to the desert, we were able to create niche adaptation everywhere and then we made new niches like cities, right?
And so we couldn´t come with a hardwired program for how to be adapted for a certain environment, we had to come not-hardwired, learn what the environment was. Because it used to be super valuable to throw spears, now we don´t throw spears, we might be texting and other things – and so we have to actually be able to soft-wire.
That means that we are radically more affected by our environment than all the other creatures are – and not just in childhood but even into adulthood and via neuroplasticity we are continously being affected by our environment. So when you think about it – our whole evolutionary history was in ecosystems that we depended upon, where we were – well the complexity of nature, the self organising dynamics of nature was what our nervous system was taking in and getting an inution for. And then we grow up not connected to any complex system nature to a little but of manicured nature, thats about it and all man made strucures that are complicated, not complex – they are all fragile.
You bring this house down – it doesn´t repair itself. You burn a forest down, it does. You damage this camera, it doesn´t repair itself – you cut me, I´ll repair myself, so we don´t even have an intution for what nature is. Or what complexity is. Or what selforganization is, because we haven´t spend time around it. And we are that conditioned by what we´re around. Now younger generations are growing up with almost their entire life, from their earliest neuroplasticity – is two dimensional, right, and that responds to them in a way that doesn´t have physics, it has some other pre-programmed in physics, so there isn´t even an intuition for how physics works.
So, all of that is a preface to say, reconditioning a felt sense of our connectedness with everything is not actually a trivial thing to do. It´ a deep process. And there is a cognitive development that people can start with which actually matters – which is as soon as you just really think about it and think about „who am I without plants and who am I without pollinators“ and you realize „I don´t exist“ and you start to get that there is this kind of narcissism that we are stuck in almost all the time thinking about me, I, and it´s not even a good thought. Its not even a rational way to optimize my own life. Let along the fact that it creates depression just thinking cognitively about the interconnectivity of everything actually helps a lot. –
How to get a more embodied sense? Go spent time in nature, do psychodelics, do any kind of state practice that creates expanded states, see how you can have more intimate relationships with more people – all those things.
David Fuller: And, when you scetch it out like that, it seems immense, the callenge. Are you hopeful or are you pessimistic?
Daniel Schmachtenberger: I think that the shift that we are on the precipice of is not like the shift from the dark Ages to the Enlightenment, or even the agricultural Revolution. It´s like more like a shift from single cell to multicellular life. It´s like a really deep fundamental shift in the level and type of complexity, in the nature of reality that we are talking about.
Evolution brought about rivalrous dynamics, but then it also brought about our prefrontal cortices, our capaciy for abstraction and our ability to do design, and technology. Lions can´t make themselves radically more capable as a predator in a very short period of time, faster than the gazelles can get away. If they could, they could eat all the gazelles and then go extinct, because they debased the substrate upon which they lived.
And so as the great whales getting a little bit faster, the seals are also getting faster. The whole system is co-evolving, so there are no radical power-asymmetries. We started modeling ourselves as an apex predator, but then developing tools that increased our ability to do that on an exponential curve, and the environment wasn´t increasing its capacity to deal with that on an exponential curve. That selfterminates.
So that´s evolution, modified by technology. We need something that is neither of those things, to be able to take the next step. And, you know, one way of talking about this is – evolution is an unconscious process, an algorithmic process of which species survive and reproduce. And it´s extremely slow and most things fail.
What makes it through though is a profound degree of complexity. Design is a much faster process, but we always build things that optimize for some number of functions that we intended to optimize for, but they affect more things than we intended to optimize which usually an externality, there´s always some harm that wasn´t intended.
Evolution by design is something that is different than just technology design. When we´re designing complicated systems, and it´s different than complex design that is unconscious, there´s a process by which – we can think of it in mythopoetic terms and say, the evolutionary process kept increasing orderly complexity until we got to the capacity for abstraction that could contemplate evolution itself and look at the principles of evolution, see what it´s doing and choose to consciously participate within immediate evolution itself.
And so we get to move from, we have the possibility of moving from being parts of the whole that are competing with each other but moving to having power that makes that no longer possible.
We are actually being agents for the whole.
Because we can´t model ourselves as apex predators when we have the ability to extinct whole species, ruin whole biospheres, make new species – that´s no longer an adequate model
The only thing in nature that has the kind of ubiquitous power that can make species and destroy species and change the geography is nature itself. But now consciously mediated through agents that have kind of woken up as that, so I think this next shift is us realizing that as technology that results from our abstraction but focused on parts and not focused on how the whole thing fits together, that technology is kind of giving us the power of gods, we have to get the love and wisdom and understanding of gods or we self-terminate with that power.
That´s a big task. I don´t think that we can say that anything smaller than that could possibly be adequate.
David Fuller: You didn´t say whether you think that we are likely to make it or not …
David Schmachtenberger: I think that if you were to – let´s take the standard narrative on evolutionary history, and we say, okay, there was no life in the universe untill it started on earth three billion years ago, so you have got billions of years, right, plus billions of years, when there was no life, and a lot of shit happend, right, there was a lot of physics and chemistry and cosmology happening, you could say, based on that, that it´s probably that there is never gonna be this thing called life because forecasting from the current curve it would seem like we run all the combinatorics right, and then life emerges. And then theres about a billion years where theres just single cells and it seems like a billion years is a really long time to figure stuff out , they´re not gonna be multicells it´s actually when the single-cell creatures are at a phase shift of near self induced extinction that leads to the environmental pressure that leads to multicells, you know that´s one narrative of how that happened. So it´s kind of the nature of universe to do unprecedented stuff. That is kind of what evolution means – is that new epochs are unprecedented
David Fuller: So you are saying we need a miracle but we have miracles in the past?
David Schmachtenberger: I´m saying we need an epoch shift that is not the continuation of the current curve, that it is a discretete nonlinear phase shift. And that if we think about it as just continuation of current curve – okay these things are getting better with tech, let´s hope they keep getting better – it doesn´t work.
But if we say what are the neccessary sufficient criteria of a civilization that doesn´t self terminate in the presence of the emerging power? We can actually identify what those critieria are, and they are actually things that we can do. Then that becomes the only move that makes sense, working to bring that about –
David Fuller: But then looking at the current political climate, looking at the current kind of the leaders that we have at the moment, do you have any hope, that they are going to be equipped to bring this / usabout?
David Schmachtenberger: Of course not. Because they are part of the system that is obsoleting itself.
David Fuller: Do you have a sense of how that shifts then if they can´t do it?
David Schmachtenberger: I say things that everyone has probably heard when Bucky Fuller famously said don´t try to fight the existing system or fix it – just build a new one that obsoletes it, that has the right characteristics – it´s very much that.
Sohn-Rethel recognized: Money shapes thinking. It is the way we think, so our thinking is unthinkable without money. That is why it has become unthinkable to us that a world without money could ever work. – On the other hand, money itself has its value as long as we think about it! Without our thinking it would be nothing. So if we were to think of a world without money, we would be missing – nothing!