THE CYBERNETIC MANIFESTO
by V. Turchin, C. Joslyn
Philosophy is the putting of our thought and language in order.
Philosophy is important. Philosophy is a part of our knowledge.
Cybernetic epistemology defines knowledge as
the existence in a cybernetic system of a model of some part of reality
as it is perceived by the system. A model is a
recursive generator of predictions about the world
which allow the cybernetic system to make decisions about its actions.
The notions of meaning and truth must be defined
from this perspective.
Knowledge is both objective and subjective because it
results from the interaction of the subject (the cybernetic system)
and the object (its environment). Knowledge about an object is
always relative: it exists only as a part of a certain subject.
We can study the relation between knowledge and reality (is the
knowledge true or false, first of all); then the subject of
knowledge becomes, in its turn, an object for another subject
of knowledge. But knowledge in any form (a proposition,
a prediction, a law), irrespective of any subject is a logical absurdity.
A detailed development of cybernetic epistemology on the basis
of these definitions is critical for the
formalization of the natural science and natural philosophy, and the
interpretation of mathematical systems.
3.Freedom, will, control
Cybernetic metaphysics asserts that freedom is a fundamental
property of things. Natural laws act as constraints on that freedom;
they do not necessarily determine a course of events.
This notion of freedom implies the existence of an agency,
or agencies, that resolve the indeterminacy implicit in freedom
by choosing one of the possible actions.
Such an agency is defined as a will. A will exercises control over a system
when the freedom of that system is constrained by actions
chosen by the will.
We understand God in the spirit of pantheism.
God is the highest level of control in the Universe.
God is for the Universe what human will is for human body.
Natural laws are one of the manifestations of God's will.
Another manifestation is the evolution of the Universe: the Evolution.
When a number of systems become integrated so that a new level of
control emerges, we say that a metasystem has formed. We refer to
this process as a metasystem transition.
A metasystem transition is, by definition, a creative act.
It cannot be solely directed by the internal structure or logic of a system,
but must always comes from outside causes, from "above".
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The metasystem transition is the quantum of evolution.
Highly organized systems, including living creatures,
are multilevel hierarchies of control resulting from
metasystem transitions of various scales.
Major evolutionary events are large-scale metasystem transitions
which take place in the framework of the trial-and-error processes
of natural selection.
Examples include: the formation of self-duplicating macromolecules;
formation of multicellular organisms;
emergence of intelligent organisms; formation of human society.
7. Human intelligence
Human intelligence, as distinct from the intelligence of non-human
animals, emerges from a metasystem transition, which is
the organism's ability to control the formation of
associations of mental representations. All of specifically human
intelligence, including imagination, language, self-consciousness,
goal-setting, humor, arts and sciences, can be understood
from this perspective.
The emergence of human intelligence
precipitated a further, currently ongoing, metasystem
transition, which is the integration of people into human societies.
Human societies are qualitatively different from societies of animals
because of the ability of the human being to create (not just use)
language. Language serves two functions: communication between
individuals and modeling of reality. These two functions are,
on the level of social integration, analogous to those of the nervous
system on the level of integration of cells into a multicellular
Using the material of language, people make new --- symbolic -
models of reality (scientific theories, in particular) such as
never existed as neural models given us by nature.
Language is, as it were, an extension
of the human brain. Moreover, it is a unitary common extension
of the brains of all members of society. It is a collective
model of reality that all members of society labor to improve,
and one that preserves the experience of preceding generations.
9.The era of Reason
We make a strong analogy between societies and neural,
multicellular organisms. The body of a society
is the bodies of all people plus the things made by them.
Its "physiology" is the culture of society. The emergence
of human society marks the appearance
of a new mechanism of Universal Evolution: previously
it was natural selection, now it becomes conscious human
effort. The variation and selection necessary for the increase
of complexity of the organization of matter
now takes place in the human brain; it becomes
inseparable from the willed act of the human being.
This is a turning point in the history of the world:
the era of Reason begins.
The human individual becomes a point of concentration of Cosmic
Creativity. With the new mechanism of evolution, its
rate increases manifold.
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Turning to the future we predict that
social integration will continue in two dimensions, which
we can call width and depth. On the one hand (width), the growth of
existing cultures will lead to the formation of a world society and
government, and the ecological unification of the biosphere under human
control. The ethics of cybernetical world-view demands that each of us
act so as
to preserve the species and the ecosystem, and to maximize the potential
for continued integration and evolution.
On the other hand (depth), we foresee the physical integration of
individual people into "human super-beings", which
communicate through the direct connection of their nervous systems.
This is a cybernetic way for an individual human person
to achieve immortality.
12.Ultimate human values
The problem of immortality is the problem of
ultimate human values, and vice versa.
Living creatures display a behavior
resulting from having goals. Goals are organized hierarchically,
so that in order to achieve a higher-level goal the system has to
set and achieve a number of lower-level goals (subgoals).
This hierarchy has a top: the
supreme, ultimate goals of a creature's life. In an animal this
top is inborn: the basic instincts of survival and reproduction.
In a human being the top goals can go beyond animal instincts.
The supreme goals, or values, of human life are, in the last analysis,
set by an individual in an act of free choice. This produces the
historic plurality of ethical and religious teachings.
There is, however a common denominator to these teachings:
the will to immortality. The animal is not aware of its
imminent death; the human person is. The human will to immortality
is a natural extension of the animal will for life.
13.Decline of metaphysical immortality
One concept of immortality we find in the traditional
great religions. We designate it as metaphysical.
It is known as immortality of soul, life after death, etc.
The protest against death is used here as a stimulus to accept
the teaching; after all, from the very beginning it promises
immortality. Under the influence of the critical scientific method,
the metaphysical notions of immortality,
once very concrete and appealing, are becoming
increasingly abstract and pale; old religious systems are slowly
but surely losing their influence.
Another concept of immortality can be called creative, or
evolutionary. The idea is that
mortal humans contribute, through their creative acts,
to the ongoing universal and eternal process -- call it Evolution,
or History, or God -- thus surviving their physical destruction.
This uniquely human motive underlies, probably, all
major creative feats of human history.
The successes of science make it possible to raise the banner
of cybernetic immortality. The idea is that the human being
is, in the last analysis, a certain form of organization of
matter. This is a very sophisticated
organization, which includes a high multilevel hierarchy of control.
What we call our soul, or our consciousness, is associated with
the highest level of this control hierarchy. This organization can
survive a partial --- perhaps, even a complete --- change
of the material from which it is built. It is a shame to
die before realizing one hundredth of what you have conceived
and being unable to pass on your experience and intuition.
It is a shame to forget things even though we know how to store
huge amount of information in computers and access them in
16.Evolution and immortality
Cybernetic integration of humans must preserve
the creative core of human individual, because it is the engine
of evolution. And it must make it immortal, because
for the purpose of evolution there is no sense in killing humans.
In natural selection, the source of change is the mutation
of the gene; nature creates by experimenting on genes and seeing
what kind of a body they produce. Therefore, nature has to
destroy older creations in order to make room for the newer ones.
The mortality of multicellular organisms is
an evolutionary necessity. At the present new stage of evolution,
the evolution of human-made culture, the human brain is
the source of creativity, not an object of experimentation. Its
loss in death is unjustifiable; it is an evolutionary absurdity.
The immortality of human beings is on the agenda of Cosmic Evolution.
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17.Evolution of the human person
The future immortality of the human person does not
imply its frozen constancy. We can understand the situation
by analogy with the preceding level of organization.
Genes are controllers of biological evolution and they are immortal,
as they should be. They do not stay unchanged, however,
but undergo mutations, so that human chromosomes are a far cry
from the chromosomes of primitive viruses.
Cybernetically immortal human persons may mutate and evolve
in interaction with other members of the super-being,
while possibly reproducing themselves
in different materials. Those human persons who will
evolve from us may be as different from us as we are different
from viruses. But the defining principle of the human person
will probably stay fixed, as did the defining principle of the gene.
18. How integration may occur
Should we expect that the whole of humanity will
unite into a single super-human being?
This does not seem likely, if we judge from the history
of evolution. Life grows like a pyramid; its top goes up
while the basis is widening rather than narrowing.
Even though we have seized control
of the biosphere, our bodies make up only a small part of the whole biomass.
The major part of it is still constituted by
unicellular and primitive multicellular organisms, such as plankton.
Realization of cybernetic immortality will certainly require
some sacrifices --- a vehement drive to develop science, to begin with.
It is far from obvious that all people and all communities
will wish to integrate into immortal super-beings.
The will to immortality, as every human feature,
varies widely in human populations. Since the integration we speak about
can only be free, only a part of mankind -- probably a small part -
should be expected to integrate. The rest will continue to exist
in the form of "human plankton".
19.Integration on the Cosmic scene
But it is the integrated part of humanity that will ultimately control
the Universe. Unintegrated humanity will not be able to compete
with the integrated part. This becomes especially clear when
we realize that the whole Cosmos, not the planet Earth,
will be the battlefield. No cosmic role for the human race is possible
without integration. The units that take decisions must be
rewarded for those decisions, otherwise they will never take them.
Can we imagine "human plankton" crowded
in rockets in order to reach a distant star in ten, twenty
or fifty generations? Only integrated immortal creatures
can conquer the outer space.
At present our ideas about the cybernetic integration of humans
are very abstract and vague. This is inevitable; long range
notions and goals may be only abstract. But this does not mean
that they are not relevant to our present concerns and problems.
The concept of cybernetic immortality can give shape to
the supreme goals and values we espouse, even though
present-day people can think realistically only in terms
of creative immortality (although -- who knows?).
The problem of ultimate values is the central problem of our
present society. What should we live for after our basic needs
are so easily satisfied by the modern production system?
What should we see as Good and what as Evil? Where are the ultimate
criteria for judging social organization?
Historically, great civilizations are inseparable
from great religions which gave answers to these questions.
The decline of traditional religions appealing to metaphysical
immortality threatens to degrade modern society.
Cybernetic immortality can take the place
of metaphysical immortality to provide the ultimate goals and values
for the emerging global civilization.
21.Integration and freedom
We are living at a time when we can see
the basic contradiction of the constructive evolution of
mankind very clearly: it is the contradiction between human
integration and human
freedom. Integration is an evolutionary necessity. If humanity sets itself
goals which are incompatible with integration the result will be
an evolutionary dead end: further creative development
will become impossible. Then we shall not survive. In the
evolving Universe there is no standstill: all that does not
develop perishes. On the other hand,
freedom is precious for the human being;
it is the essence of life. The creative freedom of individuals is
the fundamental engine of evolution in the era of Reason. If it
is suppressed by integration, as in totalitarianism,
we shall find ourselves again in an
evolutionary dead end. This contradiction is real,
but not insoluble. After all,
the same contradiction has been successfully solved on other
levels of organization in the process of evolution. When cells
integrate into multicellular organisms, they continue to perform
their biological functions--metabolism and fission. The new quality,
the life of the organism, does not appear despite the
biological functions of the individual cells but because of them
and through them. The creative act of free will is
the "biological function" of the human being.
In the integrated super-being it
must be preserved as an inviolable foundation,
and the new qualities must appear through it and because of it.
Thus the fundamental challenge that the humanity faces now
is to achieve an organic synthesis of integration and freedom.
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