From a Radically Networked Society to an Evo-Devo Universe

During the time I spent in Takshashila, I heard a lot about Radically Networked Societies. It is a framework to think about societies structured in the Information Age. In a paper/book by Nitin Pai and Sneha Shankar, they define it thus:

A networked society is flat, its demands are diverse and often inchoate, decision-making processes are amorphous, and leadership diffuse.

– Nitin Pai and Sneha Shankar, Networked Societies and Hierarchical States: The Emerging Challenge to Political Order

Nitin had a TEDx Bangalore talk on similarly organizing government at the level of cities (to begin with) to better respond to citizen’s demands in the information age.

Yesterday, I read a blog post titled, The Goodness of the Universe on the excellent, Centauri Dreams blog. The paragraph that caught my eye in the blog post was this:

At its core, life has never been about either individual or group success. Instead, life’s processes have self-organized, under selection, to advance network success. Well-built networks, not individuals or even groups, always progress. As a network, life is immortal, increasingly diverse and complex, and always improving its stability, resiliency, and intelligence.

John Smart, The Goodness of the Universe

There it was again. The mention of networks. This is networks at the level of the planetary scale. He believes that both evolutionary and developmental processes are work in the Universe. He calls this the Evo-Devo Universe. In this paradigm, he believes that we are more likely to head to a non-dystopian, post-biological future.

I am also convinced we are rapidly and mostly unconsciously creating a civilization that will be ever more organized around our increasingly life-like machines. We can already see that these machines will be far smarter, faster, more capable, more miniaturized, more resource-independent, and more sustainable than our biology.

John Smart, The Goodness of the Universe

The author goes on to say that at this level, the ethics and empathy in the network grows. The longer we live in this post-biological future, the more good we get. His conclusion also was interesting to me, when he says:

Also, far too many of us still believe we are headed for the stars, when our history to date shows that the most complex networks are always headed inward, into zones of ever-greater locality, miniaturization, complexity, consciousness, ethics, empathy, and adaptiveness. As I say in my books, it seems that our destiny is density, and dematerialization.

John Smart, The Goodness of the Universe

We see this in part in the growth of our cities, to some extent. I think the Evo-Devo Universe is the end point for which a Radically Networked Society is the starting point. As always, it is the middle that is interesting.

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