Nature is self-similar across scales. Companies explode the same way economies explode, the same way the biota of a continent explode. Processes are always similar, but only differ in scale. And what that means, then, is that our most immediate datum of experience—which is the feeling of being in a body, alive and feeling—can be extrapolated and mapped onto larger and smaller processes in the universe.
This moment is the most complex moment the universe has ever known—at least the local universe.
On the platform of cellular evolution arose higher animals, complex ecosystems. On the platform of that arose early human culture. Upon that platform rose late human culture—including ourselves, including technology. My point here that I want to try to sell you on is that nature is a novelty-conserving engine of some sort. That, far from being a random process driven toward entropy by the second law of thermodynamics, nature is a process of complexification. That, whenever this process is dealt a blow, it immediately sets out to recover and surpass whatever previous level of complexification it had attained.
We represent the quintessent gathering-together of novelty. We are more than mere matter. We are more than mere biology. We are more than mere aboriginal culture. We are all of those things, plus we are our skin of technical connections, our extruded culture, our fecal coral reef of transistors, resistors, transponders, databases, and transmission systems. All of that is superimposed on the organic.
Apparently, monkeys would rather kick back and chill, and so we only function well under pressure. And so the pressure is rising. And, you know, our responses have been astonishing. When the African continent dried up we invented agriculture. When spoken language was insufficient we invented alphabets. When they were insufficient we invented mathematical modeling. When the complexity of the world exceeded our mathematical models we built computational machinery to expand the power of our mathematical tools. We seem to function well under pressure. And now we are coming under pressure. Not this; this is not pressure. This is the long garden party before pressure, when people can still worry about whether they’re getting enough antioxidants and so forth and so on. (Not to gore anyone’s particular ox; I’m as concerned about antioxidants as the next person.)
Everyone knows that what we really need is love. That, without that, it won’t work. With that, the political, social, intellectual and technological details will probably take care of themselves. But love in the heart of a monkey—which is what we are—is an effort to image this transcendental thing at the end of time. I mean, to love is to open to the presence of the other, and that’s a very, very profound boundary dissolution.
I believe that there is very little time left, that history is the enunciation of human morphogenetic transformation that is under the control of the largest control-structures in the planetary ecology. In other words, it’s not up to Bill Clinton or “Skink” Gingrich or any of these reptiles. It is not a matter of human decision. It is built in to the dynamics of the planet. And consequently, all this Western breast-beating and blame-taking about what we did and how we fucked up, and all this, is a bunch of nonsense. Nobody screwed up! You have to have an enormous sense of your own self-importance to believe that you got away from the control of nature and, against her wishes, were able to set the planet up for Armageddon. I mean, it’s such a typical Western fantasy of freedom and opportunity to do evil. History is not evil. It’s misguided and messy, and very redundant and iterative. But it isn’t evil.
Consciousness is a kind of omni-directional threat-detection and -assessment system that a very paranoid and small monkey put in place in a grassland environment frequented by very large hunting cats. And so the purpose of consciousness is to inform you of something horrific about to happen, in the hope that you can then take some action against it. But in the bottom of a cave, or high up in a tree, or on a small island—or somewhere where you feel safe—if you will then intoxicate yourself with psychedelics, the evolutionarily defined and paranoid threat-detection configuration of consciousness breaks down. And you discover that you have an angel inside your head. And this angel is the non-paranoid, non-carnivorous monkey who is still, nevertheless, you. And that, from this angelic point of perception, both the past and the future have an immediacy, a co-presence with the moment, that they lack in ordinary experience.
By “technology” I don’t mean simply machines, I use McLuhan’s definition: technology is simply the extensions of Man. The extensions of Man. We are hardwiring the unconscious. We are shrinking the planet to a point. We are democratizing the availability of data. We are digitalizing our past so that it doesn’t decay. And we are triangulating and anticipating our future, and discovering it (as we live into it) to be more fun than we ever dared imagine, more psychedelic than we ever dared imagine.