Shae. I love your phrase, humaning well. Shawn Wilson explains that the world teaches people how to be human and that we are a young species; we are on the way to learning how to be human. And I would add, how to be sentient patterners in relationship with life, rather than the Western idea that people have arrived at the pinnacle of human evolution already. 

Alexander. The hubris! Goodness!! Just on that point, there is a West African tribe, the Dagari, also called the Dagaaba, in Northwest Ghana and Burkina Faso, that hold that the most advanced beings on this planet are trees, and we humans are far from being the most advanced lifeform. In their cosmology, this makes so much sense: plants can do things we cannot do, like take energy directly from the sun and turn it into matter and energy for their own use. In this way, they can take light and turn it into matter and energy to structure themselves, as well as to function and grow and thrive, and we cannot do any of that. Also, trees do not need to make noise to communicate. They can communicate silently; we have to shout at each other – and we still misinterpret things! And trees do not need to run after their food; they can stand still and process everything that comes to them for their ongoing development and fulfillment. Humans have a long way to go before we can do any of that! So, according to this cosmology, we are not the pinnacle of evolution on Earth – far from it!

Consider the ability of trees to form a forest with such collective intelligence that there are no dry spots or super wet spots: water gets well distributed throughout a forest. The energy conversion that goes on in a forest, harnessing the energy from nature – all done in silence – is an example of how everything in nature that uses high energy conversion is silent. In contrast, when humans engage in high energy conversion processes, it always makes a lot of noise – and has a lot of side-effects, too! Chlorophyll doesn’t make noise; you can listen all you want but you won’t hear anything as it converts sunlight to organic energy and matter. I find it a fascinating cosmovision that views humans as lower than plants and trees on the evolutionary scale. Humbling and at the same time challenging us to “be a part” of the larger picture of things.

To me, it is quite clear that evolution continues. An amoeba has its own sentient capacities: it cannot see, maybe it has some kind of tactile sense and can feel or sense its environment, but if you put it on the computer screen here with us, it’s not going to be like Hi! – it is not going to see us at all. I cannot communicate with the amoeba about Jupiter: no matter what I communicate it will not get Jupiter. It cannot even sense or perceive what Jupiter would be since it simply doesn’t have the sensory apparatus for doing so, let alone the processing capacity. 

According to classical biology, humans have five senses — they just happen to be these five, and we know that bees can see infrared; they can see things we cannot see, dogs can hear things we can’t hear, the same for bats for sure, dogs can smell far more than we can and bears can smell a thousand times more acutely than dogs. It’s awesome that bears go mainly by smell, but some animals in the deep ocean have no eyes at all. They have huge heads and they can produce an electromagnetic field around them allows them to get images like what is produced by a scanning electron microscope, so they see surfaces and topography — that is to say, they “see” with no eyes since it’s a different representation of their environment that they create through this topographical electromagnetic sensing, and though it probably doesn’t extend very far, they can see their immediate environment, and this works well enough for them. We don’t have that sensibility; we aren’t capable of sensing things in that way.  


3 Billion Years From Now?

Alexander. So here is the thought experiment: the amoeba evolved three billion years ago, so imagine three billion years from now into the future. Let’s say life has continued to evolve since there is a definite chance that this will happen. We can’t even imagine what beings that are three billion years more evolved than us would be like — what sensory aparati they might have evolved, how many types of senses they might develop beyond the five we have, and what they might be capable of perceiving.  Just as the amoeba couldn’t imagine us, we can’t imagine what such an evolved being would be like. 

Mathematicians can model eleven dimensions in our universe without it collapsing back into itself (according to superstring M-theory). With computer assistance, we can create geometrical figures that are seven and eight dimensions and possibly even up to eleven, and we can rotate them along different axes. Now, you and I can only see three dimensions of them at a time, as they come into view, so we see this complex object but we can’t see all of it at once; we can only see parts of it because of our three dimensionality… but what if some beings were able to see the all other dimensions. 

It makes sense to me that they could have that capacity to see other dimensional domains that for us, just like for the amoeba, do not exist. I mean we somehow can intuit things, people can have glimpses of other dimensions, but can’t reside in them in a manner of speaking. What hubris it is to say that all we see is the way things are simply because that’s all that we can perceive and process at our current evolutionary level of knowing. Three billion years from now, whatever being is knowing and experiencing other sensibilities might say to us, ‘oh that is the way you think the universe is because you are as evolved to us as an amoeba is to you’. And they wouldn’t be wrong! Currently at three billion years more evolved than amoebas we can’t see that far out, but it is possible to consider that some being might be able to, because we can look back to our evolution of the single-celled amoeba. So, we can look and imagine forward, too. It puts life in perspective when we say this is how the universe works, from our current level of evolution and ability and the current sensory apparati that we have at our disposal to explore how the universe works. I’d suggest that what we think is the universe is probably not all there is to it, but only what we are privileged to access at our current level of evolutionary advancement.

Shae. It is fascinating to think transtemporally in that way. Three billion years. Yes, it’s difficult to even imagine such evolution. Humans as an entire species have only been here in the last few seconds of the twelve hour scale of the world’s evolution. Teaching and learning about complex time are part of Complexity Patterning, although a time-span of billions of years has stretched even my transtemporal thinking. Yes, we cannot even begin to imagine the capacities and tendencies of beings in three million years from now. I’m humbled by the thought, and knowing that my work is a fraction of a microsecond contribution to the evolution of sentience in the present. 

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony.