The Information Ecology of Humans, part 1
This paper aims to present tools to understand humans and their communities as information systems. Briefly, for those who are not familiar with this model, basic concrete and abstract things are understood as the “vocabulary” of a language, and these vocabulary elements interact with one another through a “grammar”. Just as we use words to represent ideas or actual things in language, and these words can be made to relate to one another using grammar to express things much more complex than the words themselves, we can use this model on other systems. Biology, for instance, uses some basic chemicals, amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, salts and others, these basic chemicals interact through the grammars of organic chemistry and genetics to create complex life forms.
If we want a proper understanding of society, economics, culture and politics, we need to stop viewing them as separate entities, but for what they really are, manifestations of the same experience, basic blocks of information expressed as the complex human experience by a grammar. This paper seeks to create a framework for understanding this integral system. Focus is on presenting a usable set of axioms to build relevant thinking upon. We will start with the individual, the fundamental unit of the system.
A human is, by itself a system, and this system has certain needs that must be fulfilled if it is to continue functioning. A human has self awareness, built around multiple tools to collect information, process information, as well as exchange information with other humans. Remember information can be abstract (language or non verbal communication) or concrete, like objects. Under optimal circumstances, we are informed of our needs by desires and fears. It is important to understand that these ideal circumstances are rare and difficult to maintain, our desires and fears have plasticity, this allows them to adapt to changing environments, but this adaptation does not always happen in a timely manner. The information we receive from our environment can also be misinterpreted, leading to improper adaptation. Some information is crafted to be misinterpreted. When our needs and fears are not accurate manifestations of our needs, we can be led to behave in ways that are contrary to our own needs. There are two main processes in which this happens:
a-Compulsion. In a compulsion, we know our behavior is causing a negative outcome, but we continue this behavior. Addictions are a prime example of compulsion.
b-Delusion. We believe something that is not true, basing our behavior on this falsehood leads us to act in ways that are inconsistent with our needs. This can go from improperly identifying and eating a wild mushroom, to signing a contract based on the salesman’s description rather than reading it ourselves.
These needs can be identified and classified in many ways, while Maslow’s pyramid is one of the most enduring and widely used models, I personally prefer to talk of individual needs (need to stay within certain physical and chemical parameters to sustain life, manifested by thirst, hunger, fear of falling, for instance), social needs (needs derived from the functional requirements of communities, manifested by desire for group identity, desire to seek position within a group, fear of humiliation among others ) and species needs (these are based on the requirements of sustaining the species through time, through sexual attractions and desires, for instance). In many cases, it may not even be possible to know or understand the actual need that generates a particular set of desires and fears, the need may in fact, have disappeared generations ago, yet the desires and fears leading us to fulfill these needs still persist.
At all times, desires and fears lead us to use resources to (hopefully) fulfill our needs, there are only two fundamental resources, two things that always have actual value, land and time, and we will explore this in the next installment of this paper.