Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On Stages of Human Complexity . . . and Beyond

There seem to be five stages of human-level emergence: 1) tribalism, 2) heroic individualism (think Achilles), 3) authoritarianism (think Medieval Catholic church or contemporary Islam), 4) free market individualism (think Adam Smith), and then 5) egalitarianism (think Marx, Rousseau, and the postmodernists). Stage 1 is an illiterate stage. Stage 2 gives us Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and the Odyssey. The transition from stage 2 to 3 gives us ancient Greek tragedy. Jesus is a stage 3, showing the stage 2 Roman world the pathway to stage 3. Gautama was a stage 3, showing the stage 2 Indian world the way to stage 3. In fact, our great religious leaders: Confucius, Lao Tsu, Moses, and Mohammed are all stage 3's trying to get a stage 2 world to follow them into the next stage. The move from stage 3 to 4 was mostly a grass-roots effort, a bottom-up process, though there were some leaders, such as Martin Luther, Descartes, etc. Shakespeare's tragedies show the transition from stage 3 to 4. Stage 5 founders are Rousseau and Marx, but also Napoleon. Heidegger was a stage 5, as were all the existentialists and all the postmodernists.

Stage 5 is the last stage of the human level of complexity. Each stage is more complex than the previous and, when healthiest, includes the stages below them. Typically, higher stages look down at lower stages as more primitive and less ethical, while those at lower stages look up at higher stages and can't even understand what they are thinking and doing. (Keep in mind that higher and lower here do not mean better and worse, but are indicative of levels of complexity,)

After stage 5 of the human level of complexity, there is a new level, exponentially more complex than the human level. Claire Graves (who developed this psychosocial theory of emergence) identifies this as the Second Tier of human thinking. He doesn't seem comfortable with the idea that it is in fact a level of complexity above human thinking in the same way human thinking is a level of complexity above animal thinking. This level recognizes the world as emergent, complex, and time-embedded. It embraces all the levels of complexity that make it up (quantum physical, chemical, biological, and human) and all the stages within each of those levels.

Naturally, the one who first recognized this new level would have to be there himself to recognize it. I would also include the following people: Nietzsche (probably the first), Frederick Turner, and J. T. Fraser.

I've written on this before, but it's a model I think with and through, and I'm always trying to think it and see if it continues to fit the world well. So far, it certainly does.
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