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From caterpilar to butterfly

Page history last edited by Michael J 14 years, 5 months ago

...And a creepy, crawling insect will become a flying insect, one of the most beautiful insects on earth! from How it Works for Butterflies


Metamorphosis is the series of developmental stages insects go through to become adults. Butterflies and moths have four stages of life: egg, larva (the caterpillar stage), pupa (the chrysalis phase), and adult. It takes a monarch butterfly just 30 to 40 days to complete its life cycle, with warmer temperatures generally being responsible for faster development.



The world (also called Gaia) continues to go through a natural metamorphosis.

As a natural system, it has, and hopefully - but probably not - always will. A metamorphosis is hard to see from inside the chrysalis.


It's easier to get some idea of what's going on if you can try to see it from the outside.


The butterfly takes "just 30 to 40 days" to be what they are going to be. The earth takes millions of years. Humans take different times for different transformations. But whether it is civil society, insects or tectonic plate shifts, they are all natural processes. As natural processes, it might be useful to use the narratives from the natural processes we can see to help make some sense of those we can't.


Some of the most useful ways to think about natural processes have come from Charles Darwin. He said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’


Humans live in the physical world, but also in an invisible world that enables their creative response to change. They are swimming in communication that critically affects how they see reality. As what they see changes, their decisions change and therefore what they do changes and then the environment changes and then what they see changes. And around and around it goes.


The words that humans use to try capture parts of this phenonmenon are "consciousness" or "culture" or "communication". Philosophers have been working on this since there were philosophers. It's always been a compelling problem for some. It might reflect the fact that it is an unspoken problem for all. Some people use words like "meaning of life" to think about it. Others use various myths so that they don't have to spend alot of time thinking about it.


The most useful narratives, based on their extraordinary long term resilience seems to be religion. The relatively recent (about 1600's - 1800's in Western Europe) rise of "secular humanist thought" can actually serve a "religious function" for those who embrace it.


Let's look at if as if we were extra-terrestials, from the outside


Humans, like insects, are social animals and have always lived in hives and swarmed in different size groups. As things change, the names for the hives and swarms also keep changing. Small hives have been named villages, and later surburbs. Big hives are named cities. . Rural hives have been named farms, manors and exurbs. Starting around the late 18th century in the west, lines were drawn around collections of swarms and hives and were called Nation States.


But while the names change, the activity remains similar. It's the environment, the available tools and the words to describe what humans can see that change.


The special thing about humans seems to be that their brains are wired in such a way that the invisible environment directly affects the way they see the world. It is probably one reason they have been a pretty successful species so far. The names for this invisible environment is different at different place/times.. In the current (2006) environment in most western countries, the words used are "information rich environments" or the "infosphere" or similar constructs. Specialists, who need a more precise way to make distinctions, use words like "conceptual framework" or "viewpoint" or "lens" or "narrative" to describe different aspects of the same thing.


I've started to test the usefulness of communication ecology as a narrative.


But whatever it's called, it's important.

It allows humans to share their necessarily partial views of what they see to get a little closer to seeing what is really there. It also helps get the humans who live in swarms and hives to see pretty much the same things. If what they all start seeing actually corresponds to what is really going on, the hives and swarms go in a positive direction. Almost magically, even while each human is individually choosing what to do, the result is sometimes that the various human groupings, taken as a whole, get safer and more resilient - what can be described as "smarter".


At the beginning of the 21st century in the West, the word being used to describe this phenomenon seems to be "social capital" and the emergent condition of the relevent human grouping is described as "sustainability".


It seems that every time there is a radical change in the ability of human groupings to capture and exchange communication, there is another step in the metamorphosis of the species. The one I personally understand a little about is the invention of print. After Guttenberg et al put together the tools and the supporting networks had a chance to grow, it was possible to capture information in a way that the exact same thing could be seen by lots of people. This seems to have lead to major changes in the growth of "scientific knowledge", at least in the West. (Whatever I know about this era, comes from The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein)


Here's my guess about what is happening and what's next

The most useful current word to describe of what individuals do, at the scale of groups of people is Civil Society. That's where most humans really live every day. These nodes of collective activity are surrounded by networks of humans and technology that have and allow access to information, money, and power.


The particular form these networks take vary from place to place and time to time in the same place. In some place/times it's the political network, in others it's a business based network, in others it's a celebrity network. ...And meanwhile, access to the internet just keeps growing.


In the past, speciality networks have used an information advantage as a pillar of power. It will be interesting to see what will happen as that privelege tends to erode. In the past, access to capital was dependent on access to speciality networks. With the explosive growth of micro lending, that seems like it might also change. In the past, only large scale integrated enterprises could manage the information necessary to execute on a global scale. Is the Leaderless Organization the next phase?


On the ground, humans, like every other species, are born, grow, move, have offspring and die within the constraints of an ever changing physical environment.


Then there are lots of words and images that are used to "make sense" of what's going on to other humans. That is one of the "purposes" of communication. "Make sense" could mean predict and mitigate against future risk or give "meaning to a unalterably limited time on earth." But words are words and images are images, sometimes they are useful, sometimes they are not. As the world goes through the inevitable metamorphosis, some words and images lose their usefulness, and new words and images are needed to capture another part of reality.

Here's my pick for some used up words.


As the tools for storing, comparing and moving information are becoming more accessible, it is starting to become clear that the new definitions and forms are starting to emerge. While in transition, it's very unclear. Once the humans settle on the more useful words, it will become a lot easier.

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