Conclusions
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Having presented the key dimensions and structures of a Living Systems Model, what follows is an interpretation of its significance and meaning in terms of how people conduct their everyday lives.
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Each of us carries out his actions and experiences within a personal conceptual framework that includes a general idea of what we are, how we function, and how we relate to the world. As mature adults, we have also developed a set of beliefs for dealing with the unknowables that would otherwise leave major gaps in our understanding of the world.
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The Living Systems Model provides a new perspective on man's role in the scheme of things. Examining human organisms from the view of their parent nation-state superorganism produces a radical shift from our traditional human-centric conceptualization of the universe. It offers a new and clearer understanding of man's purpose and the nature of his free will.


Humans Live Their Lives within Nation-State Superorganisms
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Over time, the design of human organisms has evolved to operate within a three-level living system hierarchy. Most humans can no longer function as independent entities. Throughout the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for an individual even to carry out his life within an isolated family or tribal enclave. The development of nation-states is nearly complete, and a transition toward world government and a world-state is well underway.
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Today, humans are positioned mid-level, between lower-level cells and a higher-level superorganism. This positioning involves interdependencies in both directions. A human's ability to perform actions is directly dependent upon the work carried out by his subordinate cells, and he receives essentially all his nourishment and protection from within the structure of his nation-state superorganism. Humans lead an indentured life that is split between their own self-maintenance and the life function work they must perform for their nation-state.
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The Emergence of Free Choice
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Humans have long had the ability to evaluate a situation to determine a "best" course of action. In pre-tribal times, the only consideration was "What is best for me?" or "What is best for my family?" As a member of a tribe, such deliberations expanded to include "What is best for others? and "What is best for the tribe?" Today, the scope of this broader concern has evolved to include "What is best for our world?" Now, there is often a conflict among these factors, because a benefit for one may come at the expense of others, and what is best for the many may require sacrificing the few.
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In their evaluation of a situation, humans are often described as having "free will" whereby they can choose their own individual response. For many centuries, philosophers have struggled with the question "Whence do they derive this power?" - - implying that some kind of supernatural creator must be involved. The concept of coevolution across the three levels of living system helps clarify the source, capacity, and limits of this freedom.
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Man's free choice evolved in tandem with superorganism development. At the tribal stage, most decisions were related to survival, in terms of nourishment and protection from the environment. There was a strong chief or council of elders who made the important decisions about work and resources, and their distribution among members. Day-to-day decisions by an individual member had little effect on this arrangement, as his work actions were usually part of group efforts. However, as the tribes began merging and evolving toward nation-states, a decentralization of responsibilities and resource decision-making became necessary.
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The Function of Markets
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As the geographical size of superorganisms grew, it became increasingly difficult for a central governance mechanism to attend to all the varying regional resource capabilities and requirements. High volume, complexity and low speed of communication limited central governance to focusing on higher-level policy decisions. Within this centralized policy umbrella, local governance substations and a broad self-governing free-market structure began to emerge.
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The new market structure enabled individual citizens and organizations to make their own immediate decisions about producing, selling and buying goods, while collectively meeting the needs of their nation-state's life functions. The market structure was self-organizing, and functioned both as a facilitating and a constraining force to help maintain the nation-state's homeostatic equilibrium across a larger territory and population.
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In tandem with the emergence of markets, human organisms developed a more sophisticated decision-making capability that allowed them greater individual freedom of choice. This free choice capability extended to decisions about whom they would associate with, what kind of work they would perform, where they would live, and what kinds of goods and material things they would acquire. In conjunction with enabling individual freedom of choice, the collective results of their decisions were governed overall by the "invisible hand" of free markets and their collective supply-and-demand mechanisms.
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The Ongoing Evolution of Superorganisms
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In a large marketplace, each citizen's individual local market decision can have only a miniscule effect on everyone else. But when many similar decisions are taken together, they may collectively represent a significant trend, where their combined result could significantly impact the nation-state's equilibrium. For small changes in individual behavior, the markets are self-organizing, self-regulating, and self-correcting mechanisms. But when a large percentage of market participants undergo a cultural change that shifts their free choices in a new direction, it may distort the market structure and interfere with its existing role in maintaining superorganism homeostasis. If the result is bad for the nation-state, government may enforce corrective policy restrictions to limit the action. But if the effect is good, it may adapt to a new policy structure that encourages the change.
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In this way, the free choice of individual human organisms introduces random variations into the nation-state behavioral culture, and thus the superorganism design. Within the market structures, such random variations are acted upon by natural selection, where the best new practices survive and proliferate. This brings about adjustments to the way the higher-level nation-state superorganism performs its life functions. The resulting homeostatic rearrangement enables the superorganism to adapt to new environmental conditions, modifying its internal design and structure within its own lifespan.
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This cultural adaptation process can be interpreted as part of the ongoing evolution of superorganism design. Where a gene pool carries changes in the human species design across generations of individual lifespans, a cultural meme pool carries changes to a nation-state superorganism's design across adaptations within its own lifespan.
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The nature of a superorganism's meme pool has undergone many changes. In tribal days, the rules of behavior that it imposed were simple, fluid, and maintained in the brains of leaders and elders. With the emergence of city-states, many of the rules became formalized and externally documented in writing or carved in stone. The expansion to nation-states furthered this trend, with formal organizations dedicated to the maintenance of culture, religion and governance laws.
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Digital and internet technologies are accelerating the transition toward an externalization of knowledge and decision-making outside of an individual person's governance mechanism. All of the world's information is becoming available online, and social networks are enabling instant and ongoing communication among like-minded peers. The result is a shift of human thought from individual deliberate efforts to group concensus.
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In the recent past, much of the information about world events and ideas was presented in scheduled time slots by thoughtful news commentators, such as Tom Brokaw and Walter Conkite, whose well thought-out programs included the most meaningful items of the day. Today, much of the online users' attention has shifted to the instantly-available "most popular" items, increasingly driven by the availability of "interesting" video clips. Within this new medium, the concensus of what subjects are important has become motivated by the desire for instant gratification rather than a search for a deeper understanding of the world.
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For a nation-state superorganism, this shift in human behavior should provide the ability to respond faster to world environment changes. The "always online" syndrome means dramatically faster and wider communication, while the rapid concensus-building of social networks may drastically reduce decision-making time and effort. However, these increases in speed seem to be accompanied by a lack of depth in human understanding and judgement, which would seem to have a negative effect on the superorganism's ability to interact with its environment. Within the superorganism, such cultural changes are subject to natural selection, which hopefully will guide evolutionary trends in a positive direction.



©1995-2012 Ackley Associates   Last revised: 7/20/11
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