system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A 20,000 year old bubble...

Bubbles are not the preserve of financial markets. One of excess cognitive capacity, unique to our species, has been growing for the last 20,000 years.

For millennia as we evolved, base emotions - fight, kill, f**k - drove our development. The result was perfect adaption to our evolutionary niche. Our small, but elegant brains became brilliant at constantly weighing up the options of fight or flight - sifting the odds, assessing the dangers.

Incessant thought and cognitive capacity expanded proportionally.

What this balanced system couldn't have predicted (or adapted us quickly enough for) was an era of plenty, and the exponential speed at which our brains developed as primitive farming practices, collaboration and culture took hold. This virtuous circle of improved nutrition leading to improved IQ, took our already impressive brain capacity, in evolutionary terms, from 0 to 60 in record time – too fast. Like so many species before us - we began to outgrow our evolutionary niche.

What do I mean by this?

We as a species, are programmed to think incessantly. This capacity was critical to our survival in a world of scarce resources. Now, in a world of plenty (at least for those of us who live in the developed world) instead of switching incessant thinking off, we mistakenly use it to obsess over the trivial - and in the process unconsciously create situations where it appears to be useful. This vestigial capacity - the mental equivalent of the coccyx - leaves the wheels of our minds spinning. Dysfunctional behaviour ensues.

But this isn’t the whole story.....

Incessant thought bore a second, altogether more trans formative fruit. As man’s intelligence reached a tipping point, from boredom and the increased awareness of the monotony and toil of a pre-industrial existence certain individuals - Jesus, Mohammed and the many history has chosen not to record – began to question the certainty of pagan dogma, their place within their group and the parameters of world they knew.

Those early outriders of independent, individualistic thought, sooner or later arrived at existentialism – the realisation of the ultimate meaninglessness of life. As the crisis of this questioning took hold (and at an individual level the panic of lonely despair set in, something we now call a mid-life crisis), a few leapt a chasm of understanding, and instead of despair, discovered peace – or “god” as some of them called, this new way of being. They discovered their ability to turn off their minds.

Penicillin, gravity the bomb – none of these come close to the significance of this discovery.

On the uncovering of such a monumental truth, a flourishing of healthy, rational, mental well-being might be expecteded to have taken hold. Having learned of this psychological escape hatch, civilisation should have evolved along these participatory, free thinking, humanitarian lines. The generosity of spirit, which this thinking prizes, should have been the foundation of a modern world order.

Instead, seeing the power of the discovery at first hand, and its ability to erode central authority, elites stepped in. There was a reason why most Christians were killed, hanging upside down. The message was pretty clear – don’t go anywhere near this way of thinking.

Out of this short term crisis was borne organised religion. The idea of "god" was co-opted and the real discovery of peace of mind - a holy grail or sorts - was buried.

This way of being. This joy of living. This is the real grail scripture talks about. This is what is unhelpful to a consumptive society, and ultimately, an elite which rules it.

The warped, half breed of the truth that was disseminated, contained enough of the original thinking to still be attractive to the human mind, and because of this it has created carnage. Unable to tame their rabid minds, man created rules, institutions and assumptions he considered “normal” and "moral" - which when viewed through a clearer lens of a calm, nonthreatening mind, appear ludicrous. You don’t have to go far into any aspect of culture or society - our foreign policy, our attitude to money, the IMF or “Western Democracy” to find bizarre contradictions at every turn. As a species we have internalised dysfunctional behaviour to such a degree the lunatics now rule the asylum.

So although we have an antidote - we ignore it for the poison that is modern living.

And yet, and yet.....this crazed movement bears the seeds of its own ultimate demise. Desperately, unconsciously, inadvertently, we are clawing our way back to the niche we fit. Collectively our conscious mind is destroying itself. Darwin’s laws remains in force.

By dowsing our world in toxic chemicals, destroying the very habitat that supports us and vilifying groups of people who could help us – we are recreating a world in which our incessant thoughts are useful. The 20,000 bubble of heightened consciousness is bursting.

*************************Updates************************

This on BB which seemed interesting here

and this

and this 

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