My interview with John Betz on electricity at KOPN on "Anything goes" Spring 2014
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Where we went wrong as a species and why?........
Humans made an enormous blunder with the discovery of electricity. After much meditation, I have come to the conclusion that electricity is the most profound discovery to the emergence of our species so far.
It demands that we as humans take a close look at it.
It is so hard for me to communicate ideas with the knowledge and perspective I have. A good scientific writer friend said – “I tend to write very densilly” – so I will try to be extremely verbose with this post.
Electricity is a very useful form of electromagnetic energy…….
However, integrating it into a complex planetary ecology has to be done in a certain way.
It was not done in an acceptable way on this planet for our survival……………………..
Premise: The earth a natural motor or generator of electromagnetic energy.
Our planet is a grounded highly metallic sphere rotating in a magnetic field. There is an enormous electrical potential difference between our planet and atmosphere. All that is needed is to make the connection between the two to generate virtually unlimited amounts of pollution free electricity.
This has not been done.
The discovery of electricity came slowly we’ve known about the static charges that build up because of friction ever since the first person got static shock. However the knowledge that electricity might have practical uses did not really begin to be explored until about the time of the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin is the most notable explorer of this physical phenomenon, by flying kites in thunder storms, and making some of the first simple generators of electricity. Reference 1.
It was during the beginning of the Industrial revolution that N Tesla created the first DC dynamo for the generation of electricity. Working for Edison at the time, who was a cheat, ruthless businessman, as well as good at exploiting other peoples discoveries or stealing other artists creations.ref3 Tesla left
Edison and went to Westinghouse and
made the first AC dynamo. Neither one of these industrialist investors (Edison
or Westinghouse) understood the ramifications or the need for how to integrate
electricity’s use into our ecology. Tesla was an enlightened scientist who had
a wide ranging vision of the significance of electricity as well as a
sensitivity for how electricity would transform our world. He also knew that if it was not integrated
into our ecology in a sound ecological way that it would have major long term
consequences. Ref 456
The discovery of electricity and its use, is a form of basic useful electromagnetic energy, part of a larger spectrum of electromagnetic energy. ie. Electron Energy. Electricity is the most useful and significant form of practical electromagnetic energy that we have discovered. Although we have started using light and lasers as for communications, electromagnetic energy created the emergence of electronics, of which we have all been a part of, and makes possible the computer I’m using to write this paper. It is functional electromagnetic ENERGY. Electricity is more significant, than fire in a modern age.
However, the way that we create electricity and how it needs to be integrated into a very complex ecological system needed to be done in accordance to Tesla’s vision. If not, we see the ecological ramifications we are faced with now in our current society.
The reasons for why electricity was not generated in an ecological way are complex. I will address that in a bit.
After Tesla’s failure to convince Edison or Westinghouse in how to integrate electricity into our world, he went to J.P. Morgan for funding to begin building the generating system for electricity.ref8 It seems radical to us, but his vision was to create a link between the earth and our atmosphere. By creating a specific grounding system connected with large towers in our atmosphere, it is possible to draw and transform the potential difference between the ground and atmosphere and transform and generate pollution free electricity. Tesla’s vision goes further, he then wanted to put this energy into the atmosphere in the form of high energy radio electromagnet energy. (very high voltage, very low amperage and wattage). Then all that would be necessary was to have an antenna on your electric device to make use of the atmospheric electricity, thus, transforming it into a practical useful electric energy. Kinda like world Wi Fi electrical energy, if you will… Remember this was happening before we built the electric infrastructure we have now. What Tesla wanted to do, was to generate electricity from the naturally occurring relationship between our planet and the magnetic field it revolves in. In doing so he envisioned a simple, practical, clean way to make electricity available by transforming the natural planetary dynamo that it is, into useful electric energy and transmitting it into the atmosphere in a useful non polluting form.
Nikolai Tesla was able to research and develop the first electrical generating system in his lab in the
area and show that electricity could be generated from the potential difference
between the earth and our atmosphere. He then went to Colorado Springs and started building a much
larger electrical generating plant. The beauty of Tesla’s vision of generating
electricity was that it took advantage of a naturally occurring phenomenon of
our planet for pollution free electric energy.
You have to remember that at the beginning of the industrial revolution
that there was a lot of radical thinking about how we should live on this
planet. The population of the planet was
1-2 billion. From about 1882 to1920 the scientists of the time were looking at
a lot of things in relationship to the scientific discoveries of the time. It is very important to have an awareness of
the scientific thinking of the time in economics, our political system, and the
relationship between the economics and political thinking of the time and what
the scientific thinking was in the discoveries they were making available to us
as a species. In many ways the economic thinking of that time was incompatible
with the scientific discovery of electricity. Remember that in terms of economics that the
concept of state property and communism was a new prevailing idea in
relationship to the concept of a utopian society
It is necessary to understand this with the generation of electricity in a different way economically for its practical application on this planet. In terms of economics you have to think rationally about the flawed concept of ownership and property. Just because you own a piece of property and can generate electrical energy from fossil fuels do the people who owned that land have the right to the legacy of the fossil fuels. The thinking of the time, many scientists at this time believed that the future concept of property was communal. Remember the classic story of the interaction between the Indians and
and the Europeans negotiating beads for land.
This is a wonderful example of how you think about property. The idea that you can own property was being
seriously questioned at this time. The
Indians of the America’s
were more than happy to accept beads for land, because the idea or concept of
land ownership seemed ridiculous to them.
It has taken a very long time and in many ways not been realized that
the Native Americans that we invaded had a sound and wonderful way of thinking
and living in the natural world. The
economic thinking that came out of Europe had
a ruthless point of view about property in the generation of wealth. It is very important to understand this basic
economic difference in relationship to the generation of electricity. The real question we have to ask ourselves is
the generation of energy a product for sale by the makers of it, or is it a
birth right or legacy of our species. Tesla
envisioned the naturally occurring phenomenon of electrical potential that can
be generated from a naturally occurring relationship between our planet and
atmosphere as communal and or belonging to all of us. With that in mind, Tesla’s
vision was to create simple generating systems of electricity that took
advantage of this naturally occurring phenomenon between our planet and provide
electricity to the world by incorporating a small charge for the use of this
pollution free electricity in the cost of the product that uses the electricity
to maintain the generating systems.
Although this may seem radical, it was not radical to the thinking of the time or maybe it was. scientists and explorers make discoveries, and in general they have a very good understanding and overview of the relationship between their discoveries in relationship to how it might affect our world. in the case of electricity, and the profound nature of electricity, it is necessary to incorporate a discovery of this profound nature in a very specific way and Tesla knew that. unfortunately, the economic philosophy or dogma of the time prevented it from happening. It’s necessary, to look at our nature as a species on this planet, since the beginning of civilized life. The first specialized citizens created a hierarchal system that controlled resources.
This hierarchal system was incompatible with the discovery of electricity.
“I think it’s very important to understand this in relationship to the discovery of electricity. In many ways the discovery of electricity is so radical in relationship to our emergence as a species, as was the discovery of fire and our ability to make use of it.” That said, we really don’t realize as a species, because electricity in many ways is so still so new to us, but we are witnessing the ramifications of not generating it properly. Tesla, had a vision, and that made him aware that the discovery of electricity would radically transform us as much as fire had. This vision that Tesla had and his ability to create the first dynamos to generate electricity is a fascinating story, unfortunately in many ways the economic thought of the time prevented it from being integrated into our ecology in an appropriate way. The other unfortunate fact is that the discoveries of many scientists have ramifications, just like Frankenstein. In many ways scientific discoveries can be a monkeys paw, because, how we make use of the scientific discoveries is not always well understood, or put to use in a way that improves the human condition. This is so true of many things that we’ve discovered as we’ve emerged on this planet not just the discovery. Scieentific discovery and science in not the basic problem it is how we make use of it economically. I could cite many examples like the discovery of nuclear reactions and other scientific discoveries but for me the discovery of electricity is perhaps the most profound discovery that we have made as a species and the ramifications there of . At the turn-of-the-century and/or millennium in 2000 my father and I talked about what the most significant discovery of the 20th century was. Although the discovery of flight and going to the moon in less than 70 years was significant, we both agreed that electricity was the most significant discovery of the 20th century, and with this in mind, it is also important to understand that with the discoveries made during the industrial revolution that the prevailing economic thought of the time did not change in ways necessary to incorporate these discoveries. We live in a very complicated and poorly understood environment, and it is necessary as we emerge and with our discoveries and more complex technology that we’ve discovered, that, they are not only changing us, but changing the world we live in. The unfortunate fact in relationship to these discoveries is that we have an old ruthless way of thinking about the economics in the relationship to this emergence, it really hasn’t changed very much in over 8000 years.
“It seems to be a flawed part of our psychological and, biological nature. Like the bible implies, we are flawed. Philosophically and economically; “Does might make right”? What we have ask ourselves, at this point in time, is, can we change this, and incorporate these discoveries in a way that we do not destroy ourselves and the planet we live on”.
I think the answer may be no,
However, I will endeavor to put in writing where we went wrong.
Carl Sagan implied in many of his works of fiction, we are very violent species.
It seems clear to me from my childhood, that our world is not unlike elementary school. Every classroom has its psychopathic bully. Lord knows I certainly had mine and in certain respects that’s the nature of our world and economic system. It seems to me that this economic system that we've created favors the psychopath. Reference psycho-pathology.
It’s funny as I write this, to realize that I might just be standing up to these bullies for the first time with a good example of why electricity and its significance, that we might be very close to destroying ourselves because of our economic system.
For me the basic problem is the relationship to our economic beliefs and the discoveries we've made as a species.
To truly appreciate this concept, it will be very important to understand the relationship between our economic thought and to a certain extent our biological & psychological thought in relationship to the discovery of electricity.
It’s Christmas time of my 57th year, and I have known since my undergraduate studies in the 70s where I studied economics, psychology ,and the history of utopian though; that capitalism and a term Joseph Sumpter coined called creative destruction, that the possibility of integrating a more just and fair utopian way of living was not possible until capitalism failed. So I became a photographer and I have had a fun with a career as a photographer until now. Creative destruction is the idea that we are always destroying the old ways of doing things in favor of the new and better and many time simple more complex ways of doing something. A lot of you will be thinking that that last statement was kind of an oxymoron. So let me try to clarify. Einstein said that simplification of means and elevation of mind seems to be the goal. Many times through creative destruction a simpler way of doing something in a more complex way becomes a path to a better way of doing something, and through this creation emergence occurs. This is a basic economic concept in economics and science. Unfortunately, the foundation or precept or basic idea of economics doesn’t seem to change. Economics is the idea and dogma that supports the concept of ownership and property rights to the people with wealth and power. Like I mentioned the first specialized citizens in a civilization control this wealth & power and up until recently knowledge. Economics is just the construct that supports a ruthless and unjust distribution of resources.
What I had not meditated in my youth on, however was the significance of electricity in relationship to this problem and have now chosen to write about it.
Creative destruction is at the heart of emergence. As explorer, scientists and artists on this planet we are emerging by becoming more complex, and simplifying the way we do things in complex ways and in the process of elevating our minds. Capitalism always favors a simpler but sometimes more complex way or technology in order to produce things more efficiently. Economically, creative destruction is basic in relationship to understanding the path we have taken as a species. we are toolmakers and it has transformed us. Emergence is the idea that complex systems create greater complexity but in economic terms, creative destruction demands that capitalism is always favoring a simpler more efficient way of doing something. Emergence is a basic principle of the universe. And it’s important to appreciate this principle in relationship to this discussion of electricity and its incorporation on this planet.
Last year the movie Cloud Atlas came out, and it’s all about slavery, I think it’s very important as well to consider slavery, especially the corporate slavery that we are experiencing in our times. That power in the form of controlled resources and labor by a select few in a civilized hierarchy needs to be part of this discussion. This fact that power corrupts is unfortunate. Like Carl Sagan said we have so much potential as a species, but he really wondered whether we could get past this fact that a select few powerful people without empathy and to a certain extent under educated or ignorant people control our destiny. This fact is very clear in his works of fiction. Or perhaps our economic beliefs are just a very flawed outdated economic philosophy that has not changed, but it needs to. Our survival depends on it. The discovery of electricity and how it has been incorporated will create a very strong argument for this………….
In a way electricity is the best modern discovery for making this point abundantly clear. I just hope it is not too late. I have have this over wellhming feeling of dread. Like the good Germans who tried to stand up to the onslaught of facism, I hope that I don’t go to my grave wishing I had done more sooner….
Capitalism at its core is about exploitation.
In other words, the person with the ability dominate others has the opportunity to exploit labor and resources for what they call wealth and profit. This thinking has been pervasive since our emergence of what we call a civilized world, What we call slavery was our first and hopefully most ruthless form of exploitation. It’s impossible to become powerful just working for yourself and in general, generate much wealth from just your own labor. As an individual you are only capable of producing so much. It is this very old way of dominating labor by a select few that empowers them to exploit a certain percentage of other peoples labor for there own, ie that the select few are able create what they call profit for themselves from the labor of others and in relationship to earths resources.
This creates a conundrum.
Because dominating and controlling people for your own benefit is intoxicating. We call it power – it’s a rush, in psychological terms it may be the most significant form of reinforcement certain people get to experience. It can also be considered bullyism and it is at the root of psychopathic thought. It seems to be a part of our basic biological and psychological demographic nature as a species. And as such may not be very changeable. You can see monetary slavery propagated and defended by the dogma that is the foundational principles of our current unjust economic belief system of our civilized world. The recent movie Cloud Atlas is a good example of this exploitation.
This happens because psychopathic thought lacks empathy.
It seems clear to me in December 2013, that this way of thinking economically does not have a future for us as a species.
I remember how the bullies I grew up made me feel, and the way I feel when I look at our economic system is basically the same feeling. William Blake said that the world was made for those who do not have a sense of self awareness. In 1978 I finished my degree in communications. And the one thing I've learned with a degree in communications is that we don’t do it very well. This is a complicated problem, because as we interact as a species using whatever form of communication we choose it’s not well known whether what were communicating by us-ie. by an individual is well understood by the other person as we intend. Empathy when communicating or what we communicate and what we try to comprehend is incredibly important. Without empathy we are not communicating. And it seems to me like the people who lack empathy, control our world and our destiny as a species, like Blake said the world was made for those without self-awareness. Empathy is a great word, and behavior, when you really understand its meaning, because a lack of self awareness of yourself in relationship to others is basic to creating a fair and just economy. I have had the opportunity to interact with some of the wealthiest people on this planet and it is clear to me that they grow up in a very different privileged ideology. I guess the question is, is the ideology psychopathic or are the people in the environment that they grow up generate psychopathic behavior/thought. Or is it just a reflection of the environment that shaped us through evolution. An argument can be made at this point as to whether our environment shaped us or we have shaped our environment in relationship to the way the environment and our evolutionary development occurred on this planet. I’m inclined to think, that it’s both. Our emergence or evolution on this planet created a dynamic diverse variety of different humans. At least in the way they think, and treat each other. Like the movie cloud Atlas with its classic line:” the weak are meat and the strong shall eat”. Which is just a poetic way of saying that certain people like to exploit other people, it’s at the root of cannibalism which has a profound symbolism, and the movie Cloud Atlas does a good job of showing this behavior. It’s impossible for me to write these things without incorporating fundamental art and knowledge and information that I've gained as I've looked at my relationship to the world, I was born into without incorporating a broad range of contemporary information. So bear with me as I try to write differently for the first time incorporating a lot of selected, and hopefully carefully selected ideas about how we are living in this complex universe.
James Joyce was an abstract writer and although his writing is rather poetic and fun I think he got the idea across in Finnegan’s wake with the opening line the of the book. It’s basically a good example of abstract writing and very poetic in creative and abstract ways. “riverrun, past swerve of shore and bend the bay brings us by commodious vircus of recirculation to
and environs. This opening to Finnegan’s wake and the rest of the book makes
for one of the newest forms of abstract literature that’s ever been written.
For me during the course of this writing on electricity is an attempt to
bring a lot of very abstract knowledge that we have as a species in a way of
looking at electricity and its ramifications and importance to both our
survival and use of the discovery of electricity. So bear with me dear reader. Howith Castle
I also know, that if I am successful in publishing this work or opus, that there will be tremendous resistance to the ideas and concepts that I’m talking about there may be a certain amount of danger to me personally for doing so. But like a good German I hope it’s not too late I hope that I do not regret having not done this sooner and that I could have done more. Einstein said that “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. It seemed to me in my undergraduate years that there was absolutely no opportunity for things to change economically. During the war years of the 70's that I grew up in and the discovery of the concept of global warming and overpopulation it seemed to me after deliberate study that there was not an opportunity to make or do this kind of project i.e. book that might gain traction or of voice in our society at that time. Although the protests of the Vietnam War were encouraging things just hadn’t gotten bad enough the population needed to double and global warming needed to happen but now there seems to be an opportunity to make a statement about our human condition and prospect. Regardless of the failures of my baby boom generation in the 70s the fight ain’t over.IN other words - Things have to get much worse before real change can occur. But we as a species are ready for this change and its over due……….
The fight is for our own individual survival.
Individuality is an incredible thing being here and alive in this body, however there are a lot of different environments that each of us grow up in individually and it shapes our thinking, there is also a genetic element to it. I’m inclined to think that our environment and especially our childhood environment shapes the kind of the individual we become. For me that environment was academic intellectual and most importantly being taught empathy for others. This playful artistic environment shaped the fundamental way of interacting I learned, making it possible for me to engage scientifically, artistically, and rationally with my world, coupled with the underlying concept of remaining objective about everything in our world. in other words one should not become emotionally attached or accept a specific belief ,idea, scientific discovery or established fact in our system as a verity in relationship to this complex world we’re living in, because, when do, you lose objectivity, you lack the ability to emerge to the next level and lack a perspective that allows you to grow intellectually in relationship to our collective environment.
Two quotes are needed here:
First is one from a psychiatrist friend I had who basically said;” that our emotions control us, and we like to think that we have control over our emotions, but our emotions tend to control us”.
Emotions are kind of a nebulous thing that in psychological terms we don’t really understand.
The other quote is by Leon Trotsky from his book the revolution betrayed, in the introduction he’s quoted as saying;” whoever worships the accomplished fact is incapable of preparing for the future”. One thing is constant, that our world is dynamic and always changing.
So what am I trying to say here? Our belief’s, our emotions, and ideas tend to give us a certain amount of comfort about ourselves. When change occurs your emergence occur's it changes our relationship with our beliefs and ideas. Most change comes through discovery as we as humans are basically exploring our universe. I wrote in college that human life is just matter trying to figure itself out. In the process of that discovery things change. Our emotions and beliefs and ideas during this process tends to give us a little sense of security happiness and joy. However as we experience the process of rapid emergence, this basic principle of our universe we are continually challenged to accept our discoveries.
It’s remarkable that we have come so far so quickly in our physical world.
Some of the discoveries in quantum mechanics are so mind-boggling, that sometimes I think I’m in some child’s computer simulation. And for the most part it’s not a very good simulation, there’s something wrong with the program. And by my way of thinking, the crux of the problem is in the relationship to discovery, and our ability to empathize and communicate how these discoveries should be used. Because there is a very big difference between the scientists, artists, explorers, and the humans who make these discoveries and the privileged ones in our world who integrate them into our ecology.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
A Brief History of Emergence
The emergence phenomenon has been at work transforming the universe and our planet since the beginning. It can be seen in the Big Bang that began our universe and formed our solar system. As their telescopes reach further back in time, astronomers continue to view the steps of the emergence process in action: destruction, reorganization and new creation.
Emergence can be seen in the many epochs of time on earth before man, during which earlier life forms were destroyed through various catastrophic events – whether caused by celestial objects, volcanism or climate change. Out of the destructive chaos, nature brought forth new, different life forms that emerged from these chaotic reorganizations of the planet’s environment.
The first cellular life appeared after the moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago after a theorized collision between the earth and another planet-sized object. After another chaotic period of bombardment by celestial objects around 3.9 billion years ago, prokaryotic organisms appeared around deep sea vents, followed by bacteria that would eventually generate an oxygen atmosphere and photosynthesis, eukaryotic cellular life around 1.85 billion years ago, sexual reproduction and multicellular organisms about 1.2 billion years ago, and protozoa about 750 million years ago.
Scientists note that a “Cambrian explosion of life” occurred about 542 million years ago, leading to what is known as the Phaerozoic eon, the first era of “well displayed life” in the fossil record. That eon is divided into three major eras, the Paleozoic (542 to 251.4 million years ago), Mesozoic (251.4 to 65.5 million years ago) and Cenozoic (65.5 million years ago to the present).
The first two eras appear to have ended in chaotic extinction events that spawned reorganizations of life on the planet. The Paleozoic ended in what is known as the Permian-Triassic (the name is based on geologic time classification) extinction event, which apparently wiped out more than 90 to 95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land-based vertebrates. Life reorganized and adapted during the Mesozoic “dinosaur” era, which ended in the more famous “Cretaceous –Tertiary” extinction event, which wiped out about half of all animal species, including most of the dinosaurs, and which was probably triggered by an asteroid impact near what is now the
peninsula. Since the Paleozoic lasted
about 300 million years, and the Mesozoic about 200 million years, one can only
hope that the Cenozoic will last 100 million years, which gives us about
another 35 million years to avoid the dinosaurs’ fate!
Similar to the evolution of all life on earth, the emergence process can be seen throughout humanity’s evolution, from its beginning 5 or 6 million years ago when Australopithecines differentiated themselves from the other apes in the African jungle. It can be seen when Homo Habilis and/or a baffling family tree of later hominid successors (Homos Ergaster, Erectus, Heidelbergensis, Rhodesiensis, etc.), which anthropologists are still trying to figure out, emerged from Africa at various times from about 2.3 million to 125,000 years ago and began to use simple tools. It can be seen when Neanderthals learned to use more sophisticated tools about 50,000 years ago and when Cro-Magnons, the first modern humans, slowly took over the earth, employing their modern, facile brains about 30,000 years ago. Emergence can also be seen, although apparently not yet datable with certainty, in the inventions of language, speech and, much later, writing and the alphabet – all of which helped humans transmit ideas from generation to generation.
After wading through pre-history, about which we know enough to merely speculate, some might say emergence is simply evolution. And the two processes are related. Evolution can be seen as a description of the overall process from a macro point of view, a series of points of emergence over time.
It remains to be seen if we Homo Sapiens are the final branch of humanity; perhaps some new species will emerge out of the chaos and destruction we have created. Certainly, today’s humans seem to sense that we are living through a period of emergence as we forage forward toward the end of the Cenozoic. Today, many subconsciously acknowledge that we are experiencing a chaotic time in which the old ways no longer work and that we are groping forward toward something new, even though we don’t know what that something is.
It may come as no surprise that such a perception is by no means unique and has probably been expressed by humans of every generation. In fact, history is built upon periods and instances of emergence, as transformative ideas sprout out of seeming chaos to create something completely different from what had gone on before.
A major instance of early emergence during the human age can be seen as people who had once been hunter-gatherers learned to domesticate animals and grow crops 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Middle East,
Nile Valley, and western Asia.
Pastoralism and then sedentary agriculture
emerged as nomadic tribes began to herd domesticated animals, and then realized
the value of living in villages and growing a steady supply of plant food.
Why did it happen? The reasons are complex and the subject of much study by anthropologists, but growing population mixed with climate change in marginal areas clearly played a driving role. In locations in which food resources were becoming scarce, the herder could park his food nearby and move it as necessary rather than rely on the risky chance of going farther afield to bag good game. Likewise, the farmer could grow grain right in his or her own backyard rather than having to travel farther to locate new and distant sources of food.
Food and animal agriculture are perhaps the most important human examples of emergence, after the harnessing of fire and the use of simple and complex tools. A chaotic environment drove humans to rethink their situation regarding their food supply, and they solved their problem using creative new solutions that would transform the lives of humans for millennia.
Egypt, for instance, the oldest settlements have
been found on desert plateaus in Upper Egypt
early in the Paleolithic age[i]
and apparently resulted from peoples who gradually migrated from other areas
that climate change had rendered incapable of producing sufficient food.[ii]
Too many people competing and fighting for limited resources created enough political chaos for which pastoral and sedentary agriculture emerged as social answers to the new reality. It is perhaps from this milieu that the verbal stories of Adam and Eve took shape, as humans began to think of matters of good and evil and of the secret, “god-like” knowledge that transformed them from foragers into agrarians.
That secret knowledge accelerated the emergence process, which moves quickly and exponentially as one idea leads to another, jumping from one field of inquiry into other realms that might seem completely different and yet are connected by the human element and its master of strange connections, the mind.
Agriculture, both pastoral and sedentary, sparked the emergence of a new idea, civilization, which led to conflict between rival lifestyles. Civilization created towns, which in turn led to priestly, political and military elites; to governments; and to city states. Likewise, it led to new technologies that emerged to handle the needs of the new way of life, such as plows, pottery and textiles. People began to acquire the specialized knowledge of particular trades, and the new ideas of property, wealth, mythology and religion soon emerged.
Further chaos and conflict over resources led to more warfare, urbanization, and the first empires, which emerged about 5,000 years ago in the Near East and the
as a new political creation to distribute wealth and resources. The development
of walled cities, written language, calendars, monumental architecture, and the
division of labor were the products of such emergence. Moving forward, one could
point to the emergence of advances in law codes, and new theories of polity,
philosophy and religion, all of which stemmed from the discovery of
agriculture. Nile River basin
The ancient empires emerged from chaotic struggles between city states that first begat kingdoms and, after further chaotic conflict, merged through warfare to become imperial realms. From the chaos of the ancient Greek city states sprang Alexander’s Macedonian empire, which emerged as a political construct aimed at bringing new order to the chaos. Its Hellenistic civilization too fell back toward chaos and was later absorbed and transformed by the Roman Empire, which imposed order for a long time on the chaotic soup of peoples centered around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Asia and
Africa. Likewise, the development of Empires in China, India
and the Americas
might be seen as similar attempts to impose order on chaos, emerging answers to
political problems of their time.
Following the timeline, after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West,
plunged into the deep chaos of the “Dark Ages,” but from that chaotic medieval
soup sprang the Renaissance, a vast emergence of grand proportion that produced
an explosion of new ideas across all sectors of inquiry. With the invention of the printing press,
ideas became open to more people, sparking further emergence. From the chaos of the religious and dynastic
wars of the 1500s and 1600s, the Enlightenment emerged, leading to many more
innovations and experiments across many fields of endeavor, even including the
political and religious experiment now known as the United States of
Technologically, the industrial revolution would create an unstoppable, exponential emergence machine that has brought more changes to humanity than ever before. The industrial revolution brought science, technology, government, commercial enterprise, and religion together in a new way, institutionalizing emergence and driving it forward to generate change in ways that would have been inconceivable to the peoples of earlier centuries. The idea of Progress became king in the West, and the planet has never been the same.
Emergence in the Science of Warfare
In the human sphere, because of the propensity toward warfare as a political problem-solving strategy, the emergence phenomenon can be seen clearly in the evolution of humanity’s tools with which it does its fighting. The emergence process has ruled man from the time he first picked up that rock, stick, or jawbone of an ass and swung at his rival in a heated rage, to today when he might push buttons and maneuver a joystick to blow his enemy to smithereens.
Warfare is by nature chaotic and destructive. Military leaders know that, no matter how formulated their plans, once the fighters engage in battle, all bets are off. They can only hope to adapt on the battlefield to new situations that arise and to develop new systems to better manage the “combat of the future,” whatever that may be. When the need to adapt causes new, more complex alignments that revolutionize the future of warfare, the new innovation created from the chaos and destruction displays emergence in action.
But warfare also creates new technologies. Therefore, to see emergence at work, one only needs to study the history of warfare.[iii] First, however, one must dispense with the myth that early man was a much more peaceful being than he is now. Although experts once believed that, more recent archaeology tells a different tale. Humanity has most likely always been prone to violence, as stories such as that of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament attest, and deadly violence often found expression in homicides or in primitive, tribal warfare between groups. In War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, anthropologist Lawrence H. Keeley tells us that 90 to 95 percent of known societies engage in war and that tribal warfare is on average 20 times more deadly than 20th Century warfare.[iv]
However, while the desire to kill and the need to defeat one’s enemies have always been with us, warfare’s true development as a science and/or art still closely parallels that of civilization itself. Military specialization, as well as greater sophistication in arms, tactics and strategic use of violence for political ends clearly walk hand-in-hand with the development of other core attributes of human civilization such as agriculture, animal domestication and complex urban societies.
In fact, the emergence of such complex societies about 5000 BCE is perhaps the “Big Bang” that truly drove all later military invention. When the great ancient cultures took root along the Nile and near the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, they launched an
arms revolution that led armies to dump stone weapons in favor of bronze within
a few centuries. Soon people traded the
chaotic nature of alliances between family, clans and tribes for a declaration
of fealty to another human invention, the state, which then emerged as perhaps
the dominant driving force for humanity and its militaries for the millennia to
come. Indeed, the state might be seen as
the greatest weapon man ever invented.
A state means goals, strategy and movement toward professional standing armies in the early empires of
Egypt, Sumer and Akkad. The chaos of the battlefield drove the
emergence of helmets to defend against the mace and body armor to defend
against swords and other hand weapons.[v] Armies learned that chaotic mass charges
don’t always work well, so the phalanx military formation emerged in Sumer[vi]
as a more organized alternative. This
disciplined fighting tactic clustered men with shields in a defensive grouping,
providing the ancient equivalent to the protection of an armored vehicle, and variations
of the tactic were employed for two thousand years.
Because the long Nile oasis was somewhat more insulated from outside forces than the brewing mix of invasion-crazy civilizations within and bordering Mesopotamia, ancient
Egypt’s military technology lagged behind Sumer,[vii]
once again showing the necessity of a chaotic environment to the emergence
phenomena. However, Egypt eventually
obtained the better weapons developed by the Sumerians and used them to sustain
its more enduring empire. The Sumerian
and Akkadian invention of the composite bow, which offered two to three times
the firepower of a standard bow and allowed arrows to pierce armor from a
greater distance, provides one example of such technology,[viii]
and the wheeled chariot that emerged in Sumer as the first battlefield vehicle
-- developed later to its full potential by the Hyksos, Hittites, Canaanites, Assyrians
and Egyptians -- provides another.[ix]
Apparently, it took the chaotic Hyksos invasion of
Egypt in 1720 BCE to show the
Egyptians the benefits of the new bow and chariot, as well as the penetrating
axe, sickle-sword, helmet and body armor, and it would likewise take battle
against the Assyrians to teach them the value of cavalry units. [x] By the time Pharaoh Ahmose I expelled the
Hyksos from the Nile Delta about 200 years later, a reorganized Egypt emerged,
with a professional national military complete with conscription,[xi]
one of the many advantages a powerful state can provide.
The Hittites’ first use of iron in battle about 1300 BCE marks the next great emergence in weaponry technology. Iron weapons were heated and hammered into shape rather than melted and cast, which meant they were stronger, less brittle and more reliable than bronze.[xii] And they became plentiful because they did not require tin, which wasn’t easy to find.
The new Iron Age, which lasted from about 1500 BCE to 100 CE, produced national armies composed of citizens of states. The new armies of the Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks, Persians, Macedonians and Romans were larger, better organized, better trained, more mobile, and employed better logistics, transportation, communication, siegecraft and artillery than their forebears.[xiii] Emergent warfare technologies of the era included such items as carts drawn by oxen, horses or mules to carry supplies, roads and bridges, military maps, protective jackboots instead of sandals, and naval warfare and support for land forces. Better logistics allowed armies to travel thousands of miles, twice as far as previous armies. For instance, a Roman legion had a strategic range of 3,000 by 1,500 miles, which was ten times that of a Sumerian army and double that of Egyptian armies of 1,000 years earlier.[xiv]
Rome’s Empire aged, and
the military guarding its western half began to be infiltrated by barbarian
mercenaries, many of whom were skilled horsemen, a greater emphasis began to be
placed on cavalry, a trend that from one day would emerge the armored knights of
the Middle Ages as decentralized feudal armies took over for central
authority. In the Eastern
Roman Empire, the Byzantines also began to focus more on cavalry
tactics, although Roman infantry organization remained intact.
Eventually, the Empire fell in the West, and a long period of political chaos and decentralization ensued, except for brief interludes when Charlemagne united much of
Western Europe or other relatively
powerful kings exerted influence. Just
as outside tribes had overwhelmed the Western Roman state, the armies of Islam began
to take over the eastern provinces in the seventh and eighth centuries. At first, the Muslims fought with primitive
weaponry and armament, but gradually the Arab armies, like the Egyptians before
them, borrowed the weapons and tactics of their Byzantine and Persian
The mounted, armored knight reigned supreme in medieval combat. However, out of these centuries of chaos, during which Constantinople fell to the Muslims and a great exodus of scholarly knowledge headed for the West, a new time of great creativity dawned as ancient knowledge was rediscovered. In military terms, the new Renaissance outlook could be seen at the Battle of Laupen in 1339, when Swiss infantry defeated mounted knights by employing what amounted to a Macedonian phalanx, and at the battle of Crecy in 1346, when English archers defeated the French with inspired use of the longbow, reminiscent of the advances of the composite bowmen of old.[xv]
By the end of the Hundred Years War in 1457, infantry again become an important component of armies. What made the difference? The new chaotic and creative Renaissance brought the next major incident of emergence, that of gunpowder and the weapons – muskets, cannons and mortars – that used it. A line of men firing muskets simultaneously, for instance, created a wall of bullets that was much more deadly than arrows. Likewise, the new firearms created the need for truly professional armies with men who had been trained in specified skills, and it would lead once again to an army of citizens from more than just the noble class.
As subsequent innovations brought better types of gunpowder, better locks to spark the powder, and then cartridges – first made of paper and later combining powder and bullet in a single metal container – the firearms continued to become more useful and deadly. And each major innovation meant new tactics. When the wheel lock was invented, for instance, allowing a pistol that could be fired with one hand, new techniques could be developed for cavalry to take advantage of the deadly combination of pistol and saber.[xvi]
Similarly, the invention of the bayonet allowed the jobs of musketeer and pikeman to be combined,[xvii] the rifled barrel brought greater accuracy at a greater distance, and repeating rifles and machine guns would increase the rate of fire exponentially. Likewise, consistent and regular innovation would lead to improved artillery that could deliver shells accurately from miles away. But all of these innovations stemmed from the emergence of gunpowder during the Renaissance, that remarkably chaotic and creative of times.
In addition, from the Renaissance sprang the emergence of the nation-state as the dominant political structure that would drive warfare into the modern age. Now people would fight for not just because a lord or king said so, but because one’s country needed or demanded it. Now national pride became a consideration as well.
As nation-states developed more complex economic structures, new merchant and financial classes arose, and by the 18th century, monarchs and their governments could not go to war without them.[xviii] Then another chaotic era that would generate creativity, the Industrial Revolution, would bring mass production of weapons and interchangeable parts into play. This chaotic new age of discovery and rediscovery gave way to the orderly functioning of the modern age of the machine, seen in both the actual mechanical instruments driving the factories and textile mills and in the socially engineered bureaucracy of government and new ways to organize society. For example, in military terms, Napoleonic France took the nation/state further than ever before by mobilizing the entire state population for total war through conscription under an officer corps based on talent rather than social class.[xix] Likewise,
main opponent, Britain,
was in the midst of building its own empire, a world-wide commercial machine of
ordered trade and finance. The dance
between chaos and order continued.
Machines tend to beget further machines. While perhaps the greatest symbol of the new emerging reality was the machine gun, the new and deadly combination of gunpowder combined with the practical destruction capabilities of the machine would also lead to a revolution in Naval technology, allowing for ships that would become gun platforms on water and which could be used to squelch the enemy’s economy through blockade. And the pace of improvements to artillery would likewise lead to changes in ship design, leading to iron, and later steel, turrets and hulls. Naval technology continued to move forward, bringing steam power, oil boilers, dreadnought-class warships, submarines, torpedoes, depth charges, mines and aircraft carriers.
Of course, there would be no carriers without the invention of the airplane, which, along with the automobile, was another revolutionary technology to emerge from the churning chaotic soup of new ideas at the “turn of the century.” As the 19th Century gave way to the 20th, international exhibitions of technology such as the 1904
St. Louis World’s Fair
became fashionable, and inventors such as Thomas Edison, with his electric
light and telephone, and the Wright brothers, with their airplane, became the
heroes of the modern age.
Dayton bike tinkerers
probably could not predict that, before long, mechanical firepower would be
brought to the skies, first with planes dropping bombs on land and sea targets,
and later with fighter planes shooting each other down in combat. In World War I, that trend began modestly,
with airborne observers throwing bricks and lengths of chain at each other, and
eventually firing pistols and rifles, doing their best to miss their plane’s
propellor.[xx] It would not be long before mounted machine
guns with interrupter devices, the first of which was designed by Germany’s
would rule the skies over the Western Front.
Looking back at World War I, one can taste the delicious irony of an apparently orderly international structure of competing empires and nation states unleashing such devastation. Once the empires’ army machines had been launched, they could not be stopped, and the seemingly endless carnage reached unparalleled levels, producing 37 million in dead and wounded, military and civilian. But out of the destructive cauldron of World War I emerged much of what we think of as “modern,” perhaps the greatest example of which was the idea that ethnically similar groups of people should be allowed to form their own nation-states and thereby govern themselves.
And in an interesting twist, the creative chaos generated by World War I brought the weapon that helped eventually defeat the machine gun and turn the tide, the tank. As a modern answer to the ancient chariot, it would help to break the stalemate on the Western Front. More importantly, the tank would play a decisive role in the land battles that would decide Round Two a couple of decades later.
World War I and its aftermath brought socio-political chaos to Europe, with revolution in
Russia, economic collapse in Germany, and
disintegration of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires. But many great technological advances would
emerge in the years between the world wars, including major changes in
automobiles, aircraft, watercraft and rocketry.
The creative era would lead to another, even larger world war that unleashed twice the destructive power of the first, leading to the deaths of at least 60 million people, and perhaps as much as 78 million. Improved tanks, aircraft carriers, self-propelled artillery, bombers, unguided rockets, radar and jet power all would emerge from the chaotic destruction of World War II. But of course, the most fearsome technology to emerge from the chaos was the atomic bomb. For the first time, humans created a weapon that had the potential to wipe out an entire city with one bomb.
In the years since World War II, the two superpowers and their allies refined their nuclear weapons so that they could devastate the planet within a few minutes using such technologies as Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs). When each missile can carry 10 separate warheads with a range of 10,000 miles,[xxii] such as the Trident II, damage multiplies quickly. Likewise conventional warfare had by 1980 become hundreds of times as lethal as in World War II[xxiii] with the addition of such technology as combat helicopters. With the advent of smart weapons such as predator drones and bunker busting bombs during recent conflicts, humanity’s ability to destroy itself has grown exponentially in recent decades to the point where military forces have the capability to destroy any target that can be located.
Today, warfare is based more on the amount of lethal technology that can be brought to bear on the battlefield rather than the size of the force, and the linear tactics of the past have been replaced by swirling tactics that require an army to fight the direct battle in front, the deep battle behind the enemy’s lines and the rear battle in one’s own defense.[xxiv] In this sense, perhaps, winning a modern war has become an exercise in imposing one’s ma’at on a particularly chaotic battlefield that includes attacks from several directions at once.
The Path of Cain
Humanity’s journey from the Garden of Eden along Cain’s path has been long and far, with its capacity for deadly force providing just one example.
The allegorical story in Genesis of the first man and woman’s discovery of self-awareness and their emergence from God’s garden playground to begin the march toward civilization presents a compelling tale that still holds allegorical truth today. One of these grains of truth may be that each new discovery, each new instance of emergence, brings an element of loss. As humans emerge from one way of thinking to another, they also must leave something behind.
The atomic bomb certainly leaves little room for error in any march toward conflict. Gone are the days prior to World War I when leaders simply mobilized their armies, and, once set in motion, they could not be stopped.
But there are even more apt examples within the civilian realm. The invention of television and air conditioning led families to cocoon indoors on hot summer evenings when, in earlier times, they might have spent evenings outside, communing with their neighbors on front porches. The author’s grandmother told him stories that in summertime in the early years of the 20th Century in St. Louis a child would be sent to the local tavern with a beer bucket called a growler, so named for the sound it made when filled from a tap. The adult neighbors would share the cool beer on their front porches and discuss matters of import while the children played nearby. Each sultry summer evening spawned its own social event. Then, to stay cool, they all would sleep on their porches, in their yards, or in the park. Today, families claim they are too busy for such neighborly activities; they’d rather stay indoors and play video games. Technological emergence caused us to lose a close relationship with our neighbors.
Similarly, when Interstate highways were built through tight-knit neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s, connections between people were broken in the name of suburban growth. Once again, the price of progress was a lost sense of community.
In the later decades of the 20th Century, the invention of computers and then personal computers brought new opportunities to study and analyze everything around and within us. Some employees may have lost their jobs to these gleaming new thinking machines. For a while, before the recent invention of the Internet and then social networks, it seemed that computers might actually be causing us to lose connection with our fellow human beings. Now, it seems that we may have lost control of our lives as e-mail and newer methods of social networking take more and more of our free time.
Much as the personal computer emerged from the chaotic primordial soup of computer research, consider the work it took to engineer missions that sent men to space and the moon out of the chaos of scientists and physicians from many different fields all working together, each with his or her own ideas. Yet something beautiful emerged in that small step for man that was also a giant leap for humanity. Now those space scientists must look toward longer missions, for which new protocols must emerge. Just dealing with the challenges of human psychology and interpersonal relations on long missions looks daunting. If we can manage to keep a crew from killing each other on a 250-day voyage in a tin can to Mars, the experience will be bound to produce emergence on a scale unknown in human history.
The fact is that we are not so different from those who have gone before. In many ways, our lives are a long quest for meaning, as we try to impose order on chaos. We look to find that order in whatever art, science or religion we choose to pursue, and soon that quest leads to the next great idea that emerges from the chaos.
Certainly, we should learn to greater appreciate that chaos which breeds new ideas. Does each new emerging discovery make us more like God, bringing brings us closer to the Almighty’s perception of creation? Certainly, the first agriculturalists must have felt god-like as they “created” plants from the ground for the first time.
And maybe, just maybe, as we surge toward a world population of 7 billion, as separate souls on similar missions, woven into a tapestry of lives here on earth and perhaps beyond, a greater understanding of the process of emergence through history might lead us to a greater understanding of the Supreme Being’s design for the universe. We can only hope.
[i]Steindorff, George and Keith C. Seele, “When
Ruled the East,” Press, 1957,
p. 8. University
[ii] Steindorff, p. 9.
[iii] Stofft, Willam A., Karl W. Robinson and Gary L. Guertner, “A Short History of War,”
U.S. , June 30, 1992. Web. Army War College
Lawrence H. Keeley, War Before Civilization: The
Myth of the Peaceful Savage,
Press, 1996. Oxford University
[v]Stofft et al., “A Short History of War,”
June 30, 1992. Web. Army War College
[vi] Stofft et al.
[vii] Stofft et al.
[viii] Stofft et al.
[ix] Stofft et al.
[x] Stofft et al.
[xi] Stofft et al.
[xii] Stofft et al.
[xiii] Stofft et al.
[xiv] Stofft et al.
[xv] Stofft et al.
[xvi] Stofft et al.
[xvii] Stofft et al.
[xviii] Stofft et al.
[xix] Stofft et al.
[xx] Gene Gurney, Flying Aces of World War I, Random House, 1965, p. 14.
[xxi] Gurney, p. 21.
[xxii] Stofft et al.
[xxiii] Stofft et al.
[xxiv] Stofft et al.
Jim Muench April 4, 2011 - draft....