Background

Transhumanism: Culture Replaces Evolution (with Benny Hendel)

Uploaded 11/1/2022, approx. 22 minute read

Hi again.

You're still here.

I'm still here.

It's shocking.

To talk about is culture the successor to evolution?

In Hebrew, we both know Hebrew, so culture in Hebrew has two different terms. One is tarbit, when you talk about the culture of, say, germs, and one is tarbut, which is the culture of higher organisms.

So I assume you talk about culture, the outcome of the minds of higher organisms.

And there's an addendum, are we headed towards a transhumanist future?

So there is this relatively new theory, it's called dual inheritance theory, or gene culture co-evolutionary theory, or in short co-evolution.

It's the idea that all organisms develop through a process of genetic biological adaptation. And that's a classic Darwinian concept, adapted and evolved, but still it is grounded in genetics and biology.

So organisms from microbes to chimpanzees develop only.

So this is when I brought up tarbit, this is the realm.

With allegedly one exception, and the only exception is the human being.

The human being develops both genetically and biologically, but it has another way of evolving, and that is culture or civilization. Human civilization is actually a form of evolution.

That's how it started. That's how this theory started.

But then later it was discovered that many, many species also have cultures, societies at least.

We know about the bees.

We know from bees to gorillas. I mean, dolphins, elephants.

So it's beginning to be actually a theory of evolution, not a theory of human evolution, but a theory of evolution, which I think has the potential to supplant, to substitute for Darwin's evolution.

Darwin limited himself to biology and genetics, and I think it's partial. And because it's partial, I think it's wrong.

If we talk about Darwin, I would like to know if you take in with Darwin's theories, some Lamarckist theories that...

I'll come to that. Yes.

Okay.

Yes. It's a good question because this is what culture is all about. I'll come to that.

What is culture?

When I say culture, first of all, to define the terms, when I say culture, I don't mean culture, like in German, but I mean the totality of human creativity. So that would be society, that would be technology, that would be art.

I didn't quite think that culture in German meant something else than culture. Culture is only music and...

Exactly. Culture is limited. Yes, that's why I'm clarifying.

What I mean is also the way human societies are organized. What I mean is also technology, what I mean is also science, what I mean is also religion, and also.

You could say civilization?

Creativity.

Creativity.

Civilization is a good term, but again, it's associated with some writings, with some in the 19th century, that again is a bit problematic. So we don't have a good word. We don't have a good word to describe the totality of human creativity, because human creates in a variety of ways. Human creates with physical objects, with ideas, with social structures. It's all creativity. We don't have a create space or some words to...

So I'm using culture, for lack of a better word.

So what is culture in this sense?

It's a simulation. Culture is an extension of the brains and minds of multiple individuals.

And when I extend my mind, and you inhabit it, and I invite you into my mind, I'm actually inviting you into a simulation, because it's not your mind.

If I construct a building, and then I invite you for the inauguration of the building, I'm inviting you into my brainchild. I'm inviting you into my fantasy.

What we're doing today is exactly that. You invited me to Skopje. You said, come to Skopje, we would like to talk about this, this, this and that. So I came, and I actually joined you in your world.

Yes, you're in my reality now.

Similarly, if I write a book, and you read this book, you're in my mind.

Definitely.

You're captive of my mind.

I'm becoming you.

Yes, you're captive of my mind.

Same with movies, same with computer programs.

So culture, the sum total of human creativity, is what we call a simulation, because it's about inviting others into the products of your brain, the products of your mind.

This is very important, because it means that evolution has a physical manifestation, but also a mental manifestation.

If we say culture, it's very easy to mistake culture for tables and buildings and sculptures, but no. Culture is any human fantasy, any brainchild, any eruption of the mind. So culture is an abstract thing.

So it seems that evolution is evolving both physically and mentally, which brings us back to the cycle, to the initial conversation we had about body-mind, the body-mind problem.

So how could mental processes, as reified in culture, have evolutionary implications?

It's very simple. If I create an environment through my mind, first there's an idea in my mind, a fantasy in my mind.

Like cities. We mentioned cities.

Cities, the metaverse, computer programs, books, whatever. If I create something, and then I invite you in, for you to inhabit that space, you need to adapt. You must adapt.

If I create a city, you must adapt to the city. You can walk only in certain ways. You can buy food only there. You have to be physically less fit than a farmer. So it affects your body, not only your mind, but also your body. It has effects on your body.

To cut a long story short, culture is an environment exactly like an ecosystem. So it exerts what we call selective pressure. Culture creates natural selection.

If you can't use computers, for example, imagine that you are someone who is technophobe and you can't use computers. You are seriously handicapped.

You are today, definitely.

Seriously handicapped. So computers, computers are not genes. Computers are not chromosomes. Computers are not the body.

So Darwin's work is broken there. It doesn't apply to computers.

But I think that computers today are as important as your genetics. For you to survive in the environment as it is, you need to adapt to use computers. And if you don't, you're seriously disabled.

Take a phone. Who doesn't have a phone? Children.

And if you don't, you're seriously disabled. So this creates selective pressure. People who can use phones and technology are more likely to have children. It's extremely simple.

Because if you can't use technology, you are likely to have lower level of education, much lower level of income. These are predictors of reproduction. You are likely to adapt less to the environment. You are likely to be also treated badly by society. You are likely to be shunned and mocked.

And what woman would go with you? To be honest. I mean, imagine that you're on a date. You're going on a date with a woman.

What's your phone number?

What's your phone number? I don't have a phone. You don't use phones?

No.

Okay, thank you. Thank you for the drink. It was nice meeting you.

It's very simple. If you are not adapted to your culture and to the technology and to society, then your chances to reproduce are lower.

So people who are not adaptive in this sense will have fewer offspring. That's a great description of natural selection.

Moreover, if I am embedded in a certain society or culture or environment or technology, whatever, it activates some of my genes.

We call it gene expression. Most genes are dormant. They're asleep. They're hibernating. And they're triggered by the environment.

You mean each cell in our body has genes?

Yes.

They all sleep?

Not all, but majority do.

They sleep?

They sleep. They're hibernating. And then the environment provokes them.

That's why we get cancer. When there is pollution, you get cancer because it triggers some genes.

So gene expression is triggered by the environment. That's acceptable in all biology.

But hitherto, they were saying that gene expression, genes, are triggered by the physical environment, like the quality of the air, radiation, this, that.

It's not true. Genes are reactive to anything in the environment.

To happiness, for instance, to well-being?

To social demands, to technology, to genes react to everything. Genes don't make a distinction between a tree and a smartphone. It's not that genes say, wait a minute. Smartphone is artificial. I'm not going to react to it. They react.

In other words, culture triggers your genes. And this is passed on. It is passed on to future generations.

So this is Lamarckism.

This is epigenetics. Epigenetics is a variant of Lamarckism, which incorporates most of evolution, incorporates big tenets of evolution, but says that genes which are triggered are more likely to be passed on to future generations.

In other words, your culture, your society, your country, shape you and shape your children as well.

So definitely it's part of evolution. No question about it.

This is why we see small toddlers being able to do things that we didn't think that children can do.

Because they come into a world that already has all these things that we grew up with or ended up growing up with. And they are already born into this world. And they use the technology much easier than we do.

It's an excellent example because it applies to all life forms. For example, if you take a worm and you put it in a maze and there's food at the end.

So the worm meanders until she gets to the food and eats it. And she does it once and twice and three times and four hundred times.

Because it's tolat, it's a female worm.

It's a female worm, yeah. It's not gender bias.

It meanders and it eats the food.

The offspring of the worm do it much faster. The first worm needs 400 attempts to get to the food. It goes through the maze, it bangs into a wall, it goes back, it tries again and it needs 400 attempts to get to the food. The offspring of that worm needs 100 attempts.

And as we proceed in the generations, there are finally worms that just go straight for the food.

Wow. Unbelievable.

Yeah. So clearly, the maze is not a gene. It's not a chromosome. It's not biological. It's culture. It's environment. It's an artificial structure. Someone's brainchild. The worm adapted to it and transferred this and this triggered in it some genes. And she passed on these genes to her children, to her offspring.

Unbelievable.

And they are much better at doing this, at the task. And this applies to all life worlds.

So absolutely, culture is an evolutionary force in two ways.

One, if you are not adapted to culture, you are less likely to have offspring because no one will date you, no one will have children with you because you're an idiot. You don't use smartphones.

And the second reason is your genes are activated and expressed and they are passed on to future offspring.

So you could say that culture is a way to adapt to diverse habitats. Because human beings are not limited to genetic or biological heritage, hereditary mechanism, but they can invent their own hereditary mechanism.

I didn't get that.

I will explain.

Okay.

If you are a giraffe, your way to evolve as a species, your way to pass on properties and traits to your offspring is sex, essentially. I mean, there's nothing much more you can do. You're a giraffe.

And so consequently, you are usually limited to a specific habitat because you would find it difficult to survive in the polar regions.

Exactly.

Right.

Just like if we mentioned Lamarck, we'll just say that Lamarck had this hypothesis that the giraffe has a longer neck because it strives to reach the...

That has been disproved. Probably.

The higher fruit

That has been disproved because it's a not needed assumption because probably giraffes with higher necks simply reproduce more.

So you're in this sense, you're more Darwinistic.

There's no need for this type of Lamarckism.

But clearly, if the environment changes suddenly, entries become smaller, then clearly there would be some kind of adaptation to the environment, somehow, which will be transferred to offspring. And that's where Lamarck...

So you see, I think you tend to agree with Lamarck more than you've found.

No, not fully. The mechanism is Darwinian in the sense that there will be giraffes which will die and giraffes which will survive. And the giraffes that survive are better adapted to the environment. So they pass on their genes to their...

So this is totally Darwinian.

Okay, that's Darwinian.

That's Darwinian.

But what I'm saying is there is a place for Lamarckism in epigenetics in the sense that the giraffes who lower their necks to eat from the smaller trees, this activates in them some genes.

And through the Darwinian mechanism of heritage, they will transfer these genes onwards.

So ironically, Lamarck is correct within one generation, but not between generations. Lamarck is correct in one generation, but Darwin is correct between generations.

So Lamarck is right, the genes change within a generation. Darwin is right that these genes are passed on.

So what Lamarck didn't know is that the genes are being activated?

Yes, he, of course, didn't know about genes, but he was right that genes, the genetic composition of animals changes...

Changes within one…

Reactive within one generation.

Within the span of one's life.

Within one generation. He was wrong about how this change is transmitted. So that's where he was wrong.

I see.

But he was right that such... that there are changes within one generation where Darwin was wrong. Darwin said no. Change is only inter-generation.

Yes, you have what you have.

Yeah, you have what you have it's inter-generation.

Okay, so they're both right in certain senses.

Right, yes. So mutations and genetic expression can happen in a single generation and alter the species substantially. And this alteration is then passed on to future generations as Darwin had said.

But humans went a step further. Humans said we are going to design our evolution.

Giraffes are limited, you know, to epigenetics and to Darwinian transfer of genes.

Human said no. We are going to design environments that will then affect our genes that will then allow us to better adapt in future generations.

So what humans are doing, they're designing environments, then they are reacting to this environment epigenetically, then they're transferring it to the offspring.

You said women are doing that?

Humans, humans.

Oh, humans, okay.

Humans design environments that then affect their genes epigenetically and then they transfer them to offspring.

So humans trigger their own evolution.

In a way, you could say that humans are in control of the evolutionary process. Absolutely, in control.

And that's why the fact that humans control evolution through culture.

Unwittingly, by the way, probably.

Until now. Now it's pretty wittingly, but before that, yes. We didn't know about epigenetics until recently.

But because we control evolution through an environment which is essentially artificial, essentially a simulation, because we control this, then we can survive in all habitats.

We are not dependent on genes anymore. We can trigger the necessary genetic adaptation ourselves. We don't depend on it.

We've seen this throughout history when people who live in the Sahara have adapted to living there, and people who live at the pole or close to the pole adapt to different temperatures and climate.

It's a question of speed also. In a typical species, animal species, it would take tens of thousands to millions of years to adapt. In human beings, it takes sometimes 8,000 years, which is...

But it's nothing in terms of evolution. It's a moment.

So humans adapt much faster, and they adapt much faster. They change much faster, and they change much faster because they control evolution through environment.

Now, there is this addendum which says, are we headed towards a transhumanist future?

What do you mean by that? Humanist not in the sense of humanism.

No, a transhumanist future implies that in the future, technologies will integrate seamlessly with human beings. So you will have, for example, combinations of artificial intelligence and your intelligence, and you will be one.

Like the chip you said would be implanted in your brain.

It's an example. And so we will all become cyborgs, combinations of technology and hitherto humans combined into a single entity. That's one version of the transhumanist future.

Transhumanism simply means humanity, as it is today, will cease to exist and be replaced with some kind of variance. Could be a combination of humans and technology. Could be only technology controlling humans.

The question is, will there be a danger of stratification, for instance, where societies remain as they are, as we are, and others who have the means would turn themselves into a vermention?

It's always the case that technologies are first adopted by the rich, by the wealthy. And they have an advantage for a while. For example, smartphones were first adopted by businessmen, very wealthy people. So they had an advantage over you because they became much more mobile.

But it was very short lived.

But it was short. So the hope is, in reality, because of the profit motive, because of capitalism, there is a strong urge and a strong impetus, a strong incentive to make technology affordable.

So I believe that this technology will be widespread.

But there is another, it could be, at the end result, could be stratified. But between luddites and technophiles. So you could have groups of people.

What's the first?

Luddites. Luddites are people who reject technology. So, for example, when the weaving machine was invented by Hargreaves in Britain, the automatic weaver, manual weavers of fabric destroyed these machines. So this is called luddism.

Anyhow, you could have in the future groups of people who would say, I would never, ever put a chip in my head. And other groups of people would say, of course I want to put a chip in my head. It would make me an ubermensch.

We see this now in anti-vaccination. We see, of course, people in the United States of America who live in the attire and in homes of the 18th century and so on.

And survivalists who live in mountains and so on.

Yes. So that's a perfect example, because the technology will change the environment. You will have the possibility to insert a chip in your head. Those who reject this will be disadvantaged, because I will know every language in the world. I will have access to the Encyclopedia Britannica. I will make calculations in the speed of light. You will not, because you refuse to put a chip in your head.

Who will women prefer to have children with, you or me?

Oh, with the "with it" guy.

Majority will go with me. There will be a tiny minority of women who are like you. They don't want to put a chip in their head.

Okay. But majority will go with me, with the likes of me. So this will have a reproductive advantage. This is perfect example of how culture continues evolution, because then my children are much more likely to have a chip in the head.

So a chip-in-the-head humanity will be the next iteration, the next stage in evolution, driven by technology, not by genes. Technology is the principle of natural selection. It will be natural selection by culture.

And this is what they mean when they say co-evolution.

Ah, one last thing. Yes. It can go all right. It can go bad. We could have a process of negative selection.

For example, if society becomes a hell of a lot more narcissistic and a hell of a lot more psychopathic, as I believe is the case, is the case, not where already is happening.

I believe we see it in leaders, leaders in the population, for example, college students, the incidence of narcissism among college students is five times more than in the eighties.

So if society becomes more narcissistic and psychopathic, there will be a big temptation to use culture and technology and societal structures and institutions to subjugate, to bring about a narcissistic psychopathic world.

It all depends on us which choices we make, because we can shape our evolution as we see fit. We are gods in this sense. We are the only species that shapes his evolution with his own two hands.

We really were created in the image of God in this sense. We are creators.

Now, other animals, they use tools, and yes, they have societies.

But I don't think any animal would reach the level of consciousness of realizing that it can shape its own future. This is only human beings. And there are bad human beings, there are evil human beings, and there are more and more of them.

And so the whole process can go seriously awry, seriously bad. It's a warning.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Nature vs. Nurture? BOTH

The distinction between nature and nurture is a false dichotomy, as genes are natural but constitute an internal environment that is reactive to the external environment. The activation of certain genes is passed on through generations, and the internal environment operates on aspects of the external environment, affecting it. The concept of nature is a romantic invention, and the dualism of man versus nature is universally acknowledged but false. Man is part of nature, and all species modify their environment and ecosystems. The false dichotomy reduces our ability to understand the interlocking mechanisms that shape us.


Are You Sure You Are Human?

The lecture explores the question of what it means to be human and how it is becoming increasingly difficult to define. The traditional definition of being human as being distinct from animals and machines is no longer tenable due to evolutionary and technological advancements. The uniqueness of humans may lie in their behavioral unpredictability and awareness of mortality. The lecture also discusses the dethroning of humans in the Western worldview and the recent resurgence of individualism in various fields. The internet is seen as a manifestation of this resurgence, but social media and the attention economy may reverse this trend.


Nature: Grandiose Delusion (with Benny Hendel)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of nature and how humans relate to it. He argues that the traditional ways of relating to nature, such as religious domination, romanticism, and decoupling, are all dysfunctional and fail to recognize that humans are part of nature. Vaknin suggests that everything humans create is natural and that nature will use humans as agents to limit their activities if necessary. He concludes that humans need to accept that they are part of nature and act accordingly.


Metaverse as Collective Narcissism, Fantasy, Mental Illness (with Benny Hendel)

The process of virtualization, which began with the transition from agriculture to cities, has led to a retreat from reality and a shift towards simulations. The metaverse, a combination of technologies that provide online simulations, is a more profound form of virtualization that could have significant psychological impacts. Dangers of the metaverse include solipsism, self-sufficiency leading to asocial behavior, and the potential for corporations to own and control reality. However, there are also potential benefits, such as increased efficiency in work and improved accessibility for disabled individuals.


COVID-19: Nature's Revenge, Culling, or Eugenics? (and Homosexuality)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of nature and its relationship with human society. He explores the impact of urbanization on biodiversity loss and the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on cities and wildlife. Vaknin delves into the philosophical and ethical aspects of disease, health, and evolution, challenging traditional views and emphasizing the interconnectedness of human beings with their environment. He also critiques environmentalism, discussing the politicization of environmental concerns and the need for a rational approach to climate change.


Where Capitalism Went Wrong and How to Fix It (with Maria Morais of Circklo)

Sam Vaknin discusses the adverse outcome of addiction to innovation as consumers, planned obsolescence, and the asymmetry of power in business. He also talks about the emergence of tech startups and the failure of corporate institutions to embrace this type of talent. Vaknin suggests that the financing industry needs to be reconstructed using algorithms and reverting from hierarchy to network. Finally, he discusses the failure rate of startups and how it has been the same since the 80s, unlike the success rate of innovations in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Warning Young Folks: Silence When We Are All Gone

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses his concerns about the younger generation, noting their lack of emotions, meaningful relationships, and intellectual pursuits. He believes that the focus on action over emotion and cognition is leading to a culture of nihilism and disconnection. Vaknin argues that positive emotions should drive actions, as negative emotions lead to destructive outcomes. He concludes that the current state of the younger generation is a mental suicide, and that a shift in focus towards emotions, cognition, and meaningful connections is necessary for a better future.


Trust: No Economy, Money, Business Without It

Economist Sam Vaknin discusses the importance of trust in economics, arguing that economics is 100% a branch of psychology. Trust is critical to economic success, and there are different types of trust, including trust in the playing field, trust in other players, trust in market liquidity, and trust in other people's knowledge and ability. When trust breaks down, it can lead to catastrophic outcomes, including decreased economic activity, increased illegal and extralegal activities, and societal polarization. Vaknin proposes a simple index of trust and distrust to measure the level of economic trust in a society.


Vaccination Primer and COVID-19 Good News

Sam Vaknin discusses various topics, including his background, medical studies, offers he received, and the pandemic. He delves into vaccines, the immune system, and the potential COVID-19 vaccine. He expresses caution about universal vaccination and advocates for thorough clinical trials.


Avoid 3 Errors in Search of Meaning in Life

In this transcript, Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the human search for meaning and the three mistakes we make when trying to find it. He argues that we should let the path choose us, rather than trying to choose our own path, and that we already have all the answers we need, but lack the ability to identify them. He also suggests that we should focus on asking the right questions, rather than seeking the correct answers, and that relationships and love are the foundation of meaning. Finally, he quotes the Dalai Lama, who suggests that many people sacrifice their health and present happiness for the sake of money and the future, ultimately dying without having truly lived.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2023
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy