The direction of evolution and the future of humanity

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(new) The most recent and refined version of the evolutionary worldview that was first presented in Evolutionís Arrow can be found in the 34 page document The Evolutionary Manifesto which is here

Chapter 12.    The Self-Evolving Organism       


External Systemic Modelling

Linear modellers cannot understand and predict the behaviour of complex systems. Unless a linear modeller can analyse a process into step-by-step chains of cause and effect, he cannot mentally simulate the effects of his actions on the process. This is true whether the process is in his external or internal environment. The limitations of linear modelling mean that there are significant advantages to be had by the development of a capacity for systemic modelling. This ability enables individuals to mentally model their interactions with more complex processes such as social systems and ecosystems. Systemic modellers are able to understand and predict how social systems and ecosystems will unfold over time, and how they might be managed. Individuals with a capacity for systemic modelling are also able to model the effects of their actions over greater scales of space and time.

Because the systemic modeller can understand complex aspects of his external environment, he does not have to simplify them in order to be able to manage them. For example, he can manage and participate in social organisations that are not simplified by rigid codes of behaviour or mechanistic organisational structures. And a systemic modeller does not have to simplify his living environment into a monoculture before he can understand and manage it.

Systemic modelling is made possible by the acquisition of generalised mental schema that represent how various types of complex systems unfold and behave through time. Where the individual has a schema that matches a particular system, he can immediately envisage how the key processes of the system will behave. He immediately sees how the system as a whole unfolds over time, rather than having to follow the interactions of the parts of the system step-by-step.

Unlike a linear modeller, a successful systemic modeller does not analyse a system into its parts and then try to predict the behaviour of the system by seeing how the parts interact together in a step-by-step fashion. Where the mental schema match the system, the systemic modeller will see how the system will behave at a glance, with a flash of insight or intuition.

As systemic modellers improve their ability, they accumulate schema of greater and greater complexity that enable them to model the effects of possible adaptations over wider and wider scales of space and time. They are able to take account of the effects of possible adaptations that linear modellers are completely blind to. But systemic modellers can continue to use linear modelling where it is useful. For example, they still use it where they do not have appropriate schema, and use it as they build up and adapt schema.

Because current science is largely founded on linear modelling, it has great difficulty in accepting and incorporating the findings and insights of systemic modelling. This is the case even where systemic modelling has proven to be indispensable for advancing science. Studies show that few of the great discoveries of science have been produced by linear, logical thinking[1]. A high proportion originated from intuitive leaps made possible by systemic modelling. But before these insights gained scientific acceptance, they had to be translated into simple models based on linear chains of cause and effect. Until this was done, the discoveries were invariably rejected as unscientific.

Importantly, systemic modellers have the potential to manage complex cooperative organisations. They can model mentally how the organisation will respond to their management. They can choose to implement the management that is shown by their mental modelling to advance their interests and those of the organisation. The development of systemic modelling amongst some humans about 10,000 years ago made possible the rise of human communities managed by kings and other rulers[2].

But until the capacity for systemic modelling is turned inwards to further develop the capacity for self-management, systemic modellers tend to pursue the same kinds of values and goals as linear modellers. They are likely to have already developed a capacity for linear self-management. As a result, they probably have analysed and rejected the religious belief systems that were important in organising cooperation within earlier human societies. They will tend to be ego driven and self-centred, and use their enhanced adaptive ability to serve their existing internal physical and emotional goals. They are likely to use the enormous power of systemic modelling to seek narrow goals such as social status, power, feelings of importance, and sexual and other physical pleasures.

Systemic Self-Management

An individual can use systemic modelling to observe and understand his own adaptive processes, and to improve significantly his capacity for self-management. This will produce major adaptive advantages. We saw that linear self-managers are severely restricted in their ability to model the effects of changes to their pre-existing emotional and physical adaptive processes. This is particularly the case for the emotional system. It adapts the individual in complex social situations that cannot be understood by linear modelling. Systemic modelling is not limited in this way. The individual can use systemic modelling to understand the purposes of his existing adaptive systems, and to model the effects of changes to the systems, even where the effects are very complex.

So systemic modelling has the potential to enable the individual to better integrate his mental adaptation with his pre-existing emotional and physical adaptive processes. Using systemic modelling, the individual can begin to manage these adaptive processes to resolve conflicts between them and to ensure their goals are aligned with the goals pursued consciously by the individual. The greater ability of systemic modelling to discover better adaptation will be used to revise the operation of these pre-existing adaptive processes, ensuring that the wider and more complex effects of alternative adaptations are taken into account. Importantly this can include the use of self-management to revise motivations and goals established by the pre-existing internal reward systems. Increasingly, pre-existing motivations and emotional states will be seen as objects of consciousness that can be influenced. The individual will no longer see these as entirely fixed and given, but as increasingly subject to conscious choice.

For example, as an individual’s capacity for internal systemic modelling develops, he will learn to recognise a wider range of his feelings and attitudes and understand how they affect his behaviour, and how this behaviour in turn affects others. So that he can improve his interpersonal skills, he will try out different ways of behaving in social situations, with the intention of building knowledge about his emotional responses and their effects. He is also likely to become aware that some of the emotional responses produced in him through his childhood experiences are maladaptive. For example, he may find that his adaptability is restricted because of a fear of change, a need for certainty and predictability in his environment, or an inability to stand up against authority figures even when they are clearly unjust. He is likely to act to revise these inappropriate adaptations. For example, with or without the assistance of others, he may revisit the childhood experiences that produced the maladaptive responses, and use systemic modelling to see what responses would have been more appropriate in the circumstances. He can attempt to revise his psychology so that he would now respond in ways that would be more effective.

A systemic modeller might also attempt to educate his pre-existing emotional responses so that they operate more consistently with the broader understanding made possible by systemic modelling. For example, a linear modeller might tend to find fault and blame in others when they act against his interests, and respond aggressively in anger. In contrast, a systemic modeller may see that the actions of the others were an adaptive response to the circumstances in which they found themselves. The systemic modeller might instead respond by considering how the circumstances that produced the actions might be changed. The systemic modeller might see that blame, anger and aggression might serve no useful functions in these circumstances, and may even be counterproductive.

A systemic modeller might also attempt to ensure that his internal motivation and reward system supports the new adaptive behaviours and strategies that are shown by his modelling to be more effective. He might organise his life and his thinking to ensure he is motivated and emotionally rewarded as he implements these new behaviours and strategies.

Because systemic modellers have a much better understanding of the complex adaptive purposes served by their emotional system, they are also more able to use their emotional states as signals that they should pay more mental attention to particular needs. For example, instead of trying to repress and override feelings of depression, they are more likely to take the feelings as an indication that they need to seriously review their life style. The use of self-management to better integrate the mental and emotional systems means that each system will be used to enhance the adaptive capacity of the other.

As the capacity for internal systemic modelling develops, it will increasingly tend to undermine the individual’s self-centeredness. In part this will come about because the individual will begin to see that his particular motivations, goals and values have no absolute value or justification. He will find no valid reason to put them ahead of any other set of goals, and he will be unable to show that a life spent exclusively serving his particular goals and values is inherently better than alternative ways of life. These views will be strengthened as he develops the capacity to model the social processes that have helped to produce his particular set of motivations, goals and values. These models will show that his goals and other adaptive characteristics could have been very different. A different upbringing, different social conditions, a different culture, and he would have different wants and beliefs, and different likes and dislikes. This understanding will begin to undermine the individual’s belief that all his energies and adaptive capacities should be solely directed at satisfying his own particular self-centred reward system. It will also help him understand the different perspectives of others, and the causes of those differences. He will be less able to ignore and dismiss alternative perspectives.

Self-centeredness will also be undermined as the individual begins to model the social processes in which he is embedded over wider and wider scales of space and time. He will quickly become aware of his dependence on the effective operation of his social system. He will see that in many respects, he cannot achieve his personal goals unless the social system functions well. The systemic modeller will understand that in many instances, the interests of the social system coincide with his interests, and it is in his interests to promote the effective operation of the social system.

When his models of the social system can span historical scales of space and time, he will increasingly see himself and others as temporary. He will tend to see himself as just one of the enormous number of individuals who make up the social system at any time, and who each follow their particular dreams and goals for the relatively short period of their life. It is only the social system itself that will appear to be able to have any permanence and significance. From this perspective, a life spent solely serving self-centred internal rewards and motivations will appear particularly absurd. Such a life can contribute nothing to anything in the universe that has any chance of continuing in existence, or of having meaning in any broader context. This wider perspective can make it easier for the individual to find value in supporting the effective operation of his social system, or at least the part he interacts with most often. Alternatively, if the individual continues to live a self-centred life, the broader perspective can produce the existential despair that has been common in the 20th century. A wider perspective makes a self-centred existence appear temporary, meaningless, and futile[3].

So systemic modelling will tend to undermine self-centeredness. But it does not conclusively point to a new set of values that the individual should pursue. It eventually undermines individualism, but it does not establish a new set of objectives that can guide the individual. It leaves the individual with ambiguity and uncertainty. A belief in cultural relativism is a typical product of systemic modelling. All values, all goals and all motivations are seen as equally valid. Internal systemic modelling increasingly provides self-managers with the ability to harness their motivations and reward systems to new objectives, but it does not establish what those new objectives should be. This is, of course, the position that systemic modellers find themselves in today. It is only with the development of evolutionary modelling that humanity can again find individual and collective direction.

External Evolutionary Modelling

The development of a capacity for evolutionary modelling enables the individual to see the effects of his actions over even wider scales of space and time. An evolutionary modeller can model complex systems over evolutionary time scales. He has mental schema that enable him to predict how these systems evolve. The individual can model the effects of alternative actions on the likely future evolutionary success of humanity. He can identify evolutionary trends and future evolutionary events, and use this to see what humans must do to contribute positively to the future evolution of life in the universe.

The evolutionary modeller will see himself and human society as a product of evolutionary processes that have a past, present and future. He will understand that his values, beliefs and other characteristics have been produced by past evolution, and he will know why these take the form they do. The evolutionary modeller will see himself and his society as evolutionary work-in-progress. His mental models will show him that humanity is situated part way along a progressive evolutionary sequence, and he will see the future evolutionary possibilities and challenges that confront us. The evolutionary modeller will see what work he and others must do if humanity is to be successful in future evolution[4].

The evolutionary modeller will be aware that future success for humanity will require the progressive development of cooperative human organisations of larger and larger scale, and of higher and higher evolvability. And he will see that this will require the development of a new psychological capacity in individuals, evolutionary self-management.

But evolutionary modelling will not have a significant effect on the goals and objectives of humanity while it is used only to model the external environment. Until evolutionary modelling is turned inwards to model alternative adaptive processes, it will produce only mental, intellectual knowledge. External evolutionary modelling will not itself change the goals and values pursued by individuals. External modelling enables individuals to find better ways to achieve their adaptive goals, but it does not change those goals. External evolutionary modellers will have much the same goals, motivations and values as internal systemic modellers.

Evolutionary Self-Management

When turned inwards, evolutionary modelling has the potential to build on systemic modelling to provide the individual with a comprehensive understanding of his mental, emotional and physical adaptive mechanisms, the social and evolutionary processes that formed them, and the effects over social and evolutionary time scales of modifying their operation.

But will the individual want to exploit these potentials? Will he pursue evolutionary goals, and use self-management to align his pre-existing adaptive processes with his pursuit of evolutionary goals? Or will the individual continue to serve the internal reward systems that have been established previously by the genetic and social evolutionary processes?

We have seen how the development of internal systemic modelling can weaken the tendency of the individual to put his narrow personal satisfaction ahead of all else. But systemic modelling leaves the individual in no man’s land. It is unable to replace the weakened self-centred goals with new values and objectives. Internal evolutionary modelling can do this. It can produce psychological conditions within the individual that will increase the likelihood that the individual will adopt evolutionary objectives.

First and foremost, evolutionary modelling enables the individual to see the absolute absurdity of continuing to pursue his pre-existing goals at the expense of evolutionary objectives. With an evolutionary perspective, the individual will see that his pre-existing goals are flawed and short sighted, the product of inferior and limited evolutionary mechanisms. The individual will know that his pre-existing goals are evolution’s inadequate attempt to cause him to behave in ways that will bring evolutionary success. Once he has much more effective ways of consciously pursuing evolutionary success, he is likely to see it as absurd to continue to serve the flawed goals.

Second, evolutionary modelling enables the individual to see that humans do not have any choice about whether or not they will pursue evolutionary goals. Whether they serve the pre-existing goals, or use modelling to consciously pursue the objective of future evolutionary success, they will be serving evolutionary ends. The only choice they have is about how good a method they will use to pursue evolutionary ends. They can pursue evolutionary ends by serving pre-existing goals that were established by inferior evolutionary mechanisms. But their evolutionary modelling will tell them that these goals will not guide them toward evolutionary success in the future. Alternatively they can use a superior evolutionary mechanism to pursue evolutionary goals. They can use evolutionary modelling to identify and implement whatever is necessary to enable humanity to participate in the future evolution of life in the universe.

Third, evolutionary modellers will see that their personal psychological struggle over what objectives they should pursue has a wider evolutionary significance. They will see that their struggle is part of the unfolding of a critical step in the evolution of life on this planet. A similar psychological struggle will be played out on any planet in the universe where organisms become conscious of the evolutionary processes that have formed them and that will determine their future. Evolutionary modellers will see that the way in which humans resolve this struggle will determine the longer-term evolutionary significance of humanity. They will understand that if humanity turns its back on evolutionary objectives and continues to serve the pre-existing goals, we will be evolutionary failures. In an evolutionary sense, humanity would die. We would be irrelevant to the future evolution of life in the universe. For humanity to choose to continue to pursue only pre-existing adaptive goals would be to choose evolutionary suicide and irrelevance. But this would not be a realistic option for a humanity that is capable of evolutionary modelling. Once an individual develops a capacity for internal evolutionary modelling, to reject evolutionary objectives would be as unthinkable as is suicide to an individual who is psychologically healthy.

And finally, evolutionary modellers will see that once they have developed the capacity for evolutionary self-management, the direct pursuit of future evolutionary success will not involve any self-sacrifice. They will be able to find motivation and emotional reward in whatever is necessary to pursue evolutionary objectives. Evolutionary self-managers will manage their pre-existing mental, emotional and physical adaptive processes so as to align their operation with evolutionary objectives. This will mean that pursuit of their managed and modified pre-existing goals will result in the pursuit of evolutionary objectives. Self-management will ensure that all pre-existing mental, emotional and physical adaptive processes will also serve the evolutionary objectives identified by evolutionary modelling.

For all these reasons, individuals with a comprehensive capacity for evolutionary modelling are likely to decide to pursue the development of the psychological skills needed for evolutionary self-management. They will want to improve their evolvability by developing a psychological capacity to manage their mental, emotional, and physical adaptive systems to serve evolutionary objectives. To achieve this, evolutionary modellers will make use of whatever techniques and practices they can find that will assist the development of this psychological capacity. At this stage in the evolution of humanity, we have not accumulated much knowledge about techniques and practices that will help produce this psychological transformation. At present, very few humans develop any capacity to manage consciously their pre-existing adaptive systems. The way we behave is still largely determined by our biological past and our socialisation. These influences produce the likes, dislikes, emotional responses, habits of thought and other predispositions that determine what we do in our lives and how we react in any particular situation. Psychologically, we are immersed in our responses and our habits of thought, and have little independence from them. Very few of us ever develop a comprehensive psychological ability to stand outside these predispositions and reactions, and to consciously choose which of them to retain, and which to modify or discard. We are not yet self-evolving beings.

To date, traditional science has produced very little knowledge about how humans can achieve this psychological transformation. Science presently understands almost nothing about consciousness, let alone about how it can evolve. At this stage in its evolution, science is very effective at helping us understand simple processes in our external environment. But because it relies largely on linear modelling, it has made little progress in understanding complex processes, whether they are external or internal to us. To date, science has almost nothing to say about the issues of greatest importance to most humans—the experience of being, and its meaning.

But some knowledge about the possibility of psychological development has existed amongst humans for a very long time. It has long been known that an individual can develop a psychological capacity that will free him somewhat from the dictates of the external events of his life and from his social and biological past—the individual can acquire a mode of consciousness, which gives him some independence from his emotional and physical states. In most cases this knowledge has been developed and passed on as part of a religious or spiritual system of beliefs and practices. The promotion of psychological and spiritual development has been an explicit part of many eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Sufism. And it is at least implicit in many varieties of Christianity. Most of these religions have developed particular practices and activities that are intended to assist psychological and spiritual development. Yoga, prayer and meditation are well known examples.

The spiritual system that comes closest to explicitly articulating practices designed to promote the types of psychological development I have discussed here is the system developed in the first half of the 20th century by George Gurdjieff[5]. He drew on many eastern religions and spiritual practices to synthesise a new system that is specifically directed at producing the psychological transformation of humans into self-evolving beings. But the knowledge about psychological development contained in Gurdjieff’s system and in other religious and spiritual traditions is invariably mixed in with myths, metaphors, parables and stories that have little substance. Nevertheless, shorn of these embellishments, there is a remarkable level of agreement within these systems about how we can transform ourselves psychologically to become self-evolving beings.

Most of these systems emphasise the importance of self-knowledge. To develop psychologically, we must come to know ourselves better. We must be as good at understanding and managing our internal environment as we are our external environment. To achieve this, we must separate psychologically into an observing part and an observed part. Our “I” will be associated with the observing part. The observed part includes our thoughts, self-images, emotional responses, and physical reactions. As the observing “I” develops, it will be able to continually observe our mental, emotional and physical reactions to external events. Our internal processes will become objects of consciousness. The “I” will build a comprehensive knowledge of how we react and how effective these reactions are. The “I” will use this knowledge to model the operation of our mental, emotional, and physical processes so that it can see how they are best managed to achieve the objectives of the “I”.

A further critical ingredient emphasised by most systems is that the “I” must develop the capacity to disidentify with these internal mental, emotional and physical processes. When this is achieved, the “I” will no longer live in and be immersed in these processes. It will consider itself separate to them, will not experience itself as them, and will be able to watch them unfold without being part of them. It can stand outside and observe them, just as it stands outside and observes external physical objects and events.

This leads to the development by the “I” of a capacity to manage the mental, emotional and physical systems. Because the “I” does not identify with and is not influenced by emotional states, it can ignore and let go of those that are inconsistent with its objectives. For example, an “I” that has chosen consciously to pursue evolutionary objectives can let go of emotional predispositions that would otherwise cause behaviour that conflicts with its objectives. And it can support and ‘go with’ emotional responses and motivations that are consistent with its evolutionary objectives. Those that clash with its objectives will be weakened and lose their power, and those that are supported will be strengthened.

An “I” that masters these and other techniques can organise any behaviour that it chooses. It can revise and change any of the behavioural predispositions, habits, likes, dislikes, and preferences that the individual had before the new “I” emerged. The individual will no longer be limited in what he can choose to do by his biological or social past, or by external circumstances. The “I” will operate like a manager of a cooperative group of organisms. Such a manager organises cooperation by supporting members who cooperate and by punishing those who undermine it. In this way, the manager aligns the interests of the individual members of the group with the interests of the group as a whole. In the same way, a fully developed “I” in a self-evolving human manages the pre-existing adaptive processes so that their adaptive goals are aligned with those of the “I”. The “I” is also like the visionary CEO of a modern corporation. The CEO manages employees so that their interests and goals are aligned with the longer-term vision that the CEO has for the corporation.

The new “I” will be able to consciously manage the resources and capacities of the individual for the pursuit of evolutionary objectives. It will use its understanding of evolutionary processes and the likely course of future evolution to determine what the individual will do with his life. Evolution will have produced a self-evolving organism. Evolution will no longer have to get the organism to do what is best in evolutionary terms by hard wiring it with internal rewards that are correlated with evolutionary success. The organism will no longer spend its life in the pursuit of emotional rewards that are evolution’s indirect way of getting the organism to pursue evolutionary success. By consciously managing its emotional and motivational systems the organism will be able to move at right angles to its biological and social past. The organism will be able to use its own models of the evolutionary consequences of its acts to pursue evolutionary goals directly and consciously.

As evolutionary modelling develops amongst humans, much more effort and resources will be put into the discovery and refinement of practices that will assist the development of the psychological skills and structures needed for evolutionary self-management. The acquisition and use of these skills will produce a mode of consciousness that is increasingly more strategic in its operation. Its primary concerns will be the adaptation of the individual to events and processes that unfold over longer time scales. This evolutionary consciousness will be experienced as a more strategic state of being that is not so buffeted or reactive to immediate events. Like the visionary CEO of a modern corporation, the consciousness will not often be involved in the day-to-day operation of the organisation. The evolutionary consciousness will largely be a spectator or witness in relation to shorter-term events and adaptive processes. The pre-existing adaptive systems, managed as necessary by evolutionary modelling, will continue to adapt the individual in relation to these shorter-term events. And the concerns of the evolutionary consciousness will not be self-centred. They will be more universal, focusing on the effective operation of the social system, the evolutionary success of humanity, and ultimately the successful future evolution of life in the universe. The final allegiance of all beings who attain evolutionary consciousness, wherever they arise in the universe, will be to the successful evolution of life in the universe.

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In the last three Chapters we have looked at how a capacity for mental modelling can evolve and develop. We saw that mental modelling has the potential to be far superior to previous adaptive and evolutionary mechanisms. Its superiority stems from its ability to use models and simulations to anticipate future events and to adapt the organism to them. The models can be improved in the light of experience throughout the life of the organism. Importantly, when mental modelling is combined with a capacity to transmit adaptive knowledge between individuals, a new evolutionary mechanism is born. The knowledge used to construct and operate models can be accumulated across the generations, producing an evolving culture.

Eventually, organisms will accumulate sufficient knowledge about their environment to model and understand the evolutionary processes that have formed them and that will determine their future. They will see that evolution progresses by producing cooperative organisations of increasing scale and evolvability. Potentially, the organisms could use their modelling and understanding of evolution to guide their own adaptation and evolution. If they could use their modelling in this way, they would no longer need to be controlled by internal emotional and physical rewards—they could work out for themselves what they need to do for evolutionary success, and act accordingly. This would be a major step forward in evolvability, and would enable mental modelling to realise its full potential as an evolutionary mechanism. But initially the organisms will be unable to make this transition. They will be not be able to use their modelling of evolution to guide their adaptation. When the modelling capacity first emerges, it has neither the competence nor the capability to control how the organism adapts. The modelling capacity is grafted onto a fully functioning organism that is already adapted by complex emotional and physical adaptive systems. The modelling capacity does not understand sufficient about these pre-existing adaptive processes to take them over and manage them competently. Its initial attempts to do so are likely to be maladaptive. It will be interfering with complex processes that it knows very little about.

Furthermore, the organisms will not be motivated to use their mental modelling to pursue evolutionary objectives. What they find motivating and emotionally satisfying will be determined by their pre-existing adaptive systems. The pre-existing systems will not reward the pursuit of longer-term evolutionary objectives. The goals of the emotional and physical adaptive systems will have been established by shortsighted evolutionary mechanisms that are blind to longer-term evolutionary needs.

As we have seen, the full potential of mental modelling as an adaptive and evolutionary mechanism will not be realised until it is used to develop a capacity for self-management. Mental modelling cannot fully take over the adaptation of the organism until this capacity is developed. It will be unable to use its understanding of evolution to guide the adaptation of the organism. The first step toward achieving self-management occurs when the modelling capacity is turned inwards. Just as modelling the external environment has enabled organisms to manage and manipulate it, modelling their mental, emotional and physical adaptive systems will enable the organisms to manage these systems. Once the organisms are able to understand how their mental, emotional and physical adaptive systems operate, the evolutionary and other functions they perform, and the consequences of changing them, the organisms will be able to mange them to adapt more effectively. And the organisms will be able to manage their motivational and emotional systems so that they find satisfaction is pursuing evolutionary objectives.

Initially, the impetus for the development of a capacity for self-management will come from the immediate benefits it delivers to the organism. Once mental modelling has accumulated sufficient knowledge, it can adapt the organism more effectively and intelligently than the pre-existing adaptive systems. But the main impetus for the development of a full capacity for self-management will not come until the organisms begin to understand the direction of evolution and their place in it. This enables the organisms to see that their development of a capacity for evolutionary self-management is an important step forward in the evolution of life. They will know that if they fail to take this step, they will be part of a failed evolutionary experiment.  The organisms will see their own struggle to develop the capacity as part of the unfolding of a significant evolutionary event on their planet. When they work on themselves to consciously educate, train and manage their pre-existing adaptive systems, they will be aware that they are participating in an important evolutionary advance.

We have seen that the development of a capacity for evolutionary self-management represents a fundamental transformation in the psychology of an organism. Before this transformation takes place, organisms use their capacity for mental modelling to understand and manage their external environment. They use mental modelling to manipulate their environment to achieve the internal adaptive goals established by their biological and social past. But the organisms are unable to use mental modelling to understand and manage themselves. They do not have the knowledge or skills to form complex mental models of their own internal mental, emotional and physical adaptive processes, and of the consequences of changing these processes. They are conscious of using their mental processes to pick the best strategies to achieve their pre-existing adaptive goals. But the organisms do not choose these goals consciously. Their consciousness is largely directed outwards, not inwards. The organisms treat their adaptive goals as fixed and given. Without mental models of their internal processes, the organisms can barely conceive of how they could choose and modify their own motivations and emotional impulses.

When organisms have fully developed the capacity for evolutionary self-management, their biological and social past will no longer limit their adaptive flexibility. They will be able to adapt in whatever ways are needed for future evolutionary success. The organisms will not only consciously choose their behavioural strategies. They will also consciously choose their goals and objectives. They will see their motivations and emotional states as things that are subject to conscious choice. The organisms will no longer unconsciously pursue goals determined by their biological and social past. They will no longer pursue goals established by past evolution, goals that were past evolution’s best but flawed attempt to get them to behave in ways that bring evolutionary success. Instead they will use their direct apprehension of what will bring evolutionary success to choose their goals and motivations. Free from their biological and social past, they will be able to use the immense power of consciousness guided by evolutionary modelling to determine how they will adapt and evolve.

Humans have barely begun to undertake this psychological transformation. Our psychology is evolutionary work-in-progress. We are an organism in which the capacity for mental modelling has not yet realised its full potential to take over and improve our evolvability. It is only through conscious psychological effort that we will develop the skills and self-knowledge that will enable us to make this transformation.

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[1].       For example, see Vernon, P. E. Ed. (1970) Creativity. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

[2].       Stewart, J. E. (1997) Evolutionary Progress. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 20: 335-362.

[3].       For example, see Wilson, C. (1956) The outsider. London: Gollancz.

[4].       Stewart, J. E. (1995) Metaevolution. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 18: 113-147; and Stewart: Evolutionary Progress. op. cit.

[5].       The clearest and most practical description of Gurdjieff’s techniques and practices for achieving psychological transformation are Nicoll, M. (1980) Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Volumes 1 to 5. London: Watkins.

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