in Hartjes

The Complexity of Cultural Evolution

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What does the ecological crisis have in common with global poverty? How does politics relate to economics? The study of history? The changing landscape of technology, arts, and culture?

Over time (since living systems are also dynamic), the evolutionary pathway for biology is traced by the intersections of adaptive fitness in environments that might be changing quickly or slowly. All biological systems are complex (they have many interacting parts with emergent phenomena that are not reducible) and they are adaptive (as natural selection plays out in changing environments).

…the time is urgently upon us to synthesize and apply what is known about complexity and evolution. The fate of humanity literally depends on our ability to do this. In a time of unprecedented exponential change, we must learn to manage complex systems as they evolve in real time.

The most pressing challenges in the world have foundational cultural components. Global warming arose from the false illusions of human separation from nature and the perception of endless bounty for natural resources at the beginning of the industrial era. Terrorism is cultivated in landscapes where people feel deep-seated anxiety and economic desperation — which arise from particular models of colonial (or post-colonial) exploitation that have unique cultural histories.

Similarly, the spread of rugged individualism as a cultural construct treats human beings as if they are separate from their communities, inherently selfish, and venerable for engaging in psychopathic behaviors like wealth hoarding. In each case, the real state of power is culture and the only viable solutions involve the intentional management of cultural evolutionary change.

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