I just gave the most complicated presentation of my life to the toughest audience of my life...
Still trying to figure out what I was thinking, volunteering to tell a room full of world expert scientists at the Santa Fe Institute (where I work in communications, not as a scientist) that evolution is a fractal learning process metabolizing ever greater amounts of energy in order to model ever more sophisticated systems in which all of its products interact, and that as a matter of consequence mutation isn't really random but inevitably fuses interacting units together into new emergent wholes that then exert a top-down diversification pressure.
That syntax is a scale independent, substrate independent strategy for systems trying to model their environments as simply as possible due to the thermodynamic costs of computation.
The randomness is just the horizon of the currently knowable world, both above in the macrocosm and below in the microcosm where we must rely on compression to make general statements about the very large or very small and their influence on our lives.
That the reason humans have cumulative culture and other animals don't seems to be because of how persistent social interactions and stable groups functioned as containers for the transmission of adaptive cultural norms in conjunction with a growing need to model the system-level view of society in order to keep tabs on roles in a dominance hierarchy that involved as its own form of free-energy-minimizing computation.
That we have been living within a super-organism that includes our cultural traditions and our technologies since the beginning of humankind, and that our definitions of life and non-life - like our definitions of random and non-random - have more to do with the scale at which we perceive phenomena than any objective reality of those phenomena.
That as components of this super-system, we become ever more plastic, fluid, mutable in our interactions and identities in order to adapt to the increasingly novel environment of the civilization we have created - according to the same physical tendencies as the bacterial creation of complex cells, and the hyper-specialization and diversification that occurred for bacteria within the new complex ecologies of multicellular life.
That any global brain we live within and contribute to will have no easier a time making universal claims or theories of everything than we do, because the network latency required for it to aggregate and make generalized models of its own microcosm and macrocosm means it is subject to the same limits as our own efforts - and that it may be an inescapable conclusion of the math, that we cannot know for sure what if anything our biosphere is thinking.
That claims of universal order or disorder are unscientific because they lie beyond the horizon of knowability.
There was more. I was instructed to limit the presentation to one "slide" so I made it a scalable mind map of all of my references and annotations...and I got lost in it during the presentation just like everyone else (Exhibit A in the argument that new forms of intelligence emerge in response to the exponential error rates of systems operating at the very limits of their capability).
Thankfully, I have a copy of this first iteration of presentation notes, which I expect to evolve under the same rules they describe: a bias towards simple-as-is-practical maps - on display in elevator pitches, slogans, slang, file compression, human relationships, and any other sense in which we're all just doing our best to make sense as inexpensively as possible, amidst the exponentiating information space that we must navigate to thrive...
Here are all of the notes I made for this – the version 1.0 map of what I see as a powerful new paradigm in evolution emerging from the interference pattern of research in mathematics, evolutionary biology, computer science, developmental psychology, paleoanthropology, and origins of life:
I warn you, it's a mess. It is the intellectual equivalent of the primordial soup, just starting to hatch biomolecules. But it's my hope that it will stimulate important conversation about major blind spots in the way we understand biology and physics - and that, bare minimum, I'll get to test these thoughts in future conversations, formalize them in collaboration with people who can speak the math, and find out in what ways and just how wrong I am (and what I'm actually contributing, if anything, to science).
If you know anybody who is giving their life over to these questions like I have, please introduce us. (My email's in the notes...)
PS – If you want to hear me talking about some of these ideas in an even more preliminary form, here are some links to prior talks:
Self As City, City As Self (Burning Man, 2010)
Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality (Burning Man, 2011)
View From The Horizon (Burning Man, 2013)
How to Live in The Future (Boom Festival, 2016)
Technologists of Attention (Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, 2016)
The Evolution of Time: Biology, Mythology, and Consciousness (Oregon Eclipse, 2017)