HUMAN COGNITIVE DIVERSITY – WEAK TO NO DARWINIAN SELECTION

Proposition <-LINK: With humankind, the domain of information is liberated from the domains of matter/energy, and conventional biology.

In context with this proposition I propose a corollary proposition: Human cognitive/conceptual/emotional diversity (individual differences in profiles of cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies) is VAST.  It is also relatively independent of neo-Darwinian selection, and may be rapidly increasing. Humankind can no longer be described by the frame of norms and variations around norms. Rather, intricate weaving of trait distributions is a better scaffolding for comprehending humankind’s emergence to HUMANITY.

I doubt humankind has adequate evidence to know what human traits are no longer significantly selected by neoDarwinian processes. Human support systems enable many humans to reproduce even when they carry traits that lead to dysfunction in most environments. Eugenics still carries the brand-scar of racism, which has suppressed discourse on the future of the human gene pool. But, I want to attend to positive aspects of the liberation of human cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies from natural selection.

By diversity and individual variation I am not referring to conventional variables: gender, age, hair and skin color, languages spoken, economic and educational levels, etc. I refer to deep and significant individual differences that are often masked by our common conditioned behaviors. I will later use differences in mental imagery as my exemplar. The different “intelligences” (beyond the IQ) are crude concepts that refer to a cluster of significant individual differences. At the extremes we have “savants”, with a mix of striking disabilities and abilities. [It would be useful start creating a list of instances of this diversity, of the variation in distinct cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies. It would also be useful to do a planetary census of the global population to determine their profiles.]

SPECULATION: In terms of cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies, humankind has already “speciated” – separated into a very wide diversity of variation. Individual differences in these competencies may be as wide of there are individual differences in how different mammals seek and process food.  In terms of our inner experiences, our “conscious minds”, we probably vary to such an extent that if there were real telepathy (experiencing exactly as others experience) we would often be terrified or otherwise overwhelmed. Psychedelic experiences show us the variation of experience that is potentially within each of us. Imagine that some others may regularly/normally experience as you experienced under LSD.

This massive increase of diversity for processing within the new information domain is probably a mix of both “nature and nurture”, and may even blur the distinction between the two.  Mutations may not be filtered out and DNA sequences duplicated, with variations. Epigenetic variation may morph, especially when influenced by the new information augmenting technologies. With our new knowledge of brain plasticity, children developing in new hi-tech milieus may develop new brain structures/processes.

Brains and biological neural networks may be viewed as a new “state of matter” (in analog to plasma as the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid, and gas). Feedpast Bootstrapping,(if it exists) may be a stronger influence in bio-neural networks than in ordinary biological tissues. Planetary sysnets of cybercrews coupled by Artificial Intelligence (AI-1) becomes Augmented Intelligence (AI-2) as humankind morphs from mega-organism to mega-cyborg. Humankind is already a cyborg – our individual and group behavior already greatly augmented by intelligent technologies. In the more distant future the new augmented HUMANITY may seaf the development of Gaia to integrate the information domain.  Then, Gaia (with a new integrated humanity) would be prepared to structurally couple with other augmented biospheres on other planets. It may be arrogant for a species in one biosphere to claim privilege to colonize other biospheres on other planets.

Much of human behavior results from operant conditioning, even though psychological science as long ago abandoned its repression of imagery and inner thinking and ceased imposing the dogma of behaviorism.  Much behavior is not consciously chosen or controlled. We also have continually accumulating new evidence of how the SOCIAL influences both our behavior and experiences. However, the cult of individualism persists even though it has lost its scientific foundation.  This dominance of conditioned behavior has successfully masked the great variation of cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies. Since our conscious inner experiences are private, we really don’t know the qualitative nature oft he experiences of others. We agree on the inter-subjective content of our experiences and assume that the “experiences themselves” are similar.

The recent book, Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want by Nicholas Epley details how we use (and often mis-use) our “mind-reading” of others (living and non-living). Epley, typical to contemporary social and behavioral psychologists (usually employed by business and economic departments), continue to ignore the relevance of “inner experience”. Epley bundles all reports of inner experience as “introspection”, which “has been shown” to be utterly untrustworthy. It is true that our inner experiences are influenced by many factors and they should never be claimed as “scientific reports of the true nature of human mental processes” – which is what classical “introspection” attempted to claim. However, humans can be trained to be accurate reporters of their inner experiences – as accurate as a naturalist describing their perceptual experiences of nature.

Most research into personal experience ask “What did you experience?”, implying a request for content description. E.g, “I experienced a horse jumping over a fence” in response to reading the passage and being queried about their visual imagery. What is seldom asked, in studies of mental imagery, are questions about the quality of the experience.  E.g., “I experienced it as the horse”, or “I was the rider feeling the breeze in my face”.  Most of the research on reading continue within the behaviorist paradigm, asking “What did you read?”, instead of “What did you experience when reading?”  Most persons with strong visual imagery have considerable difficulty with their mental experiences when reading highly conceptual literature, but have greatly varied visual imagery when reading highly descriptive literature.  The common response to the query, “What did you experience?” was NOTHING. Persons with strong visual imagery and who enjoy reading highly conceptual literature all have discovered a way to keep the visual imagery from distracting their reading experience of conceptual literature.

Most psychological studies of humans are of responses to stimuli or to situations – something thought of by the researcher as external to the subject. The experimenter sees both object and subject.  There is another large field of behavior that is emitted by persons in response to their inner mental experiences THAT ARE INDEPENDENT OF THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION. I know of no studies of this behavior.  Artists creating art can be observed and the artist queried; few query artists about their experiences prior to setting down to create. The same applies to musical composers.

I lack mental imagery in all sensory modes, a very rare condition. I discovered my lack at age 22, and had been able to mask this disability from myself – even when working as a professional draftsman.  This occurred just as the study of imagery was escaping from the clutches of behaviorism.  My reports on lack of imagery was not received well by the imagery scientists. I was told many times “You can’t lack imagery.” An outmoded study showed 3% lack visual imagery and 7% lack auditory imagery. However, from my informal study of imagery (from the null perspective) I discovered a vast complexity and range of imagery ability (both of the variety of experiences and degrees of control).

IF we could really experience each other as they experience themselves, it would be like one of those science fiction bars with aliens of radically different sizes, shape, color, and behavior. Fortunately, as Vicki McCabe points out, much of human perception and behavior is subliminal – not dependent on the variety of inner experience.  Indeed, McCabe views our inner experiences as usually inaccurate simulations of our theories about what is happening, not a transformed projection of what was “really happening” and “stimulating our senses”.  However, I see a very positive aspect for our inner experiences, but I agree with McCabe that our failure to change course from our slide to oblivion is attributable to our faulty theories experienced as reality.

However, our diversity in cognitive/conceptual/emotional competencies goes far beyond our differences in the quality of our experientials and mental imagery. Diversity in mental imagery simply alerted me to a shift in paradigm about diversity. Humans vary greatly in speed and scope of thinking, in remembrances, in creativity, in social perception and control of behavior – to name only a few.

Human variability and diversity must be seen as one of our primary attributes.  The shape of variable distributions must be primary data and not reduced to means and standard deviations. We need to begin learning about our PROFILES of all relevant attributes/traits/competencies. This may call for new innovations in mathematics.

The construction of first level profiles must be an early task for a nu UPLIFT movement. We need this information to personalize learning and as a guide for the formation of cybercrews (the new unit for societal decision-making).

I imagine (without active visualization, but could expect visuals to be constructed for me to view) our human profiles as a wire sculpture in competency phase space.  We are as sculptures with filled and empty spaces (our competency profile). We can fit together if we are aware of this.  Not being “complete” as individual persons is not negative; our “holes” contribute to our “nature” and can inform us of human relationships to complement our “holes” with a “social wholeness”.

Until humankind acknowledges the uniqueness of its diversity it will not attempt to explore its full extent and potentials. How has this diversity increased over human history and is it changing now “as we speak”? Are there persons living today with competencies never existing centuries ago? Some fiction plays with the theme of new powers and new heroes. How might this diversity be represented in our genomes, in our DNA? Are they epigenetic? What diversity in child raising practices and education are needed? How do these new variable competencies mix from parents to offspring?

This diversity radically alters our thinking about the future of HUMANITY.  It should also impact on our strategies for survival/thrival. The competency resource pool for humankind is orders of magnitude greater than we anticipate.  Knowing a person’s potential competency profile they could be “educated” to societal functionality in a few years. Imagine a nu humankind of 10 billion uplifted persons-in-cybercrews optimally actualizing their diverse potentials to take on the challenges many today judge impossible. But, not as exploiters of Gaia/Earth, but as the evolutionary budding edge of a new HUMANITY/GAIA/EARTH.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.

6 comments
Bill Everett
Bill Everett

"It has been said that the world is divided into two types of people, those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I am with the second group." McGilchrist, TMAHE, p.11

Nirmalan
Nirmalan

On the face of it lies an appearance of a very wide diversity. At a deeper level there seems to be just two different tendencies. Taken alone both of them can be destructive. It appears that some kind of collaboration between the two may lead to interesting outcomes. For this to happen the weaker and marginalized one requires strengthening and facilitation. This is something that can be "done" consciously.


McGilchrist does not have the last word on the matter - but his twenty years of research on it do make it seem as though he has the first...http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com/


I also think that speciation has already occurred and that there are now "two kinds of people" or at the very least "people who have the capacity to function in two distinct ways".


I think a test that can identify these individuals may trigger something interesting.

nuet
nuet

@Bill Everett  Nature likes small and large numbers. Humans sometimes pick small numbers for convenience. We have BI-lateral symmetry, so two might appear often.


Spencer-Brown in Laws of Form posited distinctions as the primary cuts in the structure of reality - and the easiest distinctions to discover are binary.


We project a sorting on the world that often starts with binary distinctions. What the world "really is" may forever remain a mystery.

nuet
nuet

@Nirmalan Thanks for replying.  The title THE MASTER AND HIS EMISSARY struck a bell and I think I may have read it. You referenced McGilchrist in an email on 03/27/13.  NOT my memory, my trying to search my book list. Looks like a book to read "again". Why is the link between our two brain hemispheres one of the last parts to mature? 

Master/Emissary may be but one of many distinctions serviced by brain laterality. I speculate the Right synthesizes the results of the Left's analysis of the result of the Right's synthesis, etc. Adult consciousness may emerge from this cycling.


I am not clear as to who the TWO are, which you refer to - or is it Master and Emissary? But, they are two aspects of one person. Unless they are Master Rules and Emissary Rules?  Each person is also a diversity hosted by a biological bag. I agree with Hofstadter that we are all "multiples". The Rider/Elephant distinction is the rage today, and important.


"Speciation" is a rough metaphor. There are no sharp boundaries between "species" in modern biology, and some want to abandon use of the concept. I speak more of the range of variability than forming a reproducing population. Again, can you be more specific as to the TWO types?  Psycho/Socio-paths are like cancers, having lost their connectivity with humankind. 


Another domain of diversity are those with specific brain damages that often target a specific disability. The works of Oliver Sacks catalogs these interesting variations.

As am emeritus member of the APA I receive yearly catalogs of psychological tests. We need a fun system of online games where humankind learns about its diversity. WHO ARE WE?




Bill_Everett
Bill_Everett

@nuet I am not sure that nature "likes" anything. If nature does like something, I suspect that it isn't numbers. If we have nothing and then also have something that is not nothing, we must have a boundary between nothing and something, and this breaks continuity. With broken continuity, we have discreteness, which in turn allows patterns. The very simplest patterns of nothing and something have a natural structure and can be identified with what I called "subprimes." The structure of subprimes leads to interesting sequences, such as natural numbers, triangular numbers, tetrahedral numbers, etc. My point is that numbers are not fundamental; numbers are a derivable consequence.


On the other hand, the question "Why 2?" has bothered me incessantly since the fall of 1962. In fact, there are fundamentally 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary notation, and those who don't.


Coincidences struck me as a result of Nirmalan's comment.

My younger daughter was home from college this weekend. The main thing that she pumped me for was suggestions about dealing with cerebral asymmetry (related to her desire to write equally well with each hand). I told her some of my experiences with gaining conscious control of eye dominance and of vergence and accommodation (in order to study perceptual/cognitive differences between my two eyes).


I have been playing with elementary cellular automata, when I have time, trying to understand the difference between complex and chaotic in terms of Wolfram's classification. Essentially, there a just two "complex" elementary cellular automata. One is amphichiral and the other is not. One has been proved to be universal in the Turing sense. I have not had time to examine the proof, but I suspect that chirality may be necessary for the universality. This may be related to MacGilchrist's sense of the importance of cerebral asymmetry for intelligence.

nuet
nuet

@Bill_Everett @nuet Had I more lifetimes I would dwell in some of the domains you inhabit, as there is nothing that can't interest me.  Although I learned enough math to earn a PhD in physics, I don't have a mathematicians competencies. Wolfram is beyond my patience although I highly respect his work. Yet, I have qualms whether the domain of his expertize penetrates "everything" - but not familiar with the details I can only speculate.


My gut tells me that the distinction between no-thing and some-thing may be different from the distinction between two different some-things.  "thing" is a very slipper word for me. I need to read deeper into the historical controversy about zero as a "real" number and not just a place holder symbol.


Binary may be unique because its complexity is simple enough to be comprehended in realtime by humans, with clearly visible representations.  Beyond 10 we get too complex.



I encountered cellular automata decades ago but never got into them to any depth.
 Sorry I can't engage you on your issues, as in those areas I am only a dilettante.