Robert Wright


Vintage Books 2000

pg 3

Point Omega - noosphere - Can the trends rightly noted by Bergson and Teilhard - basic tendencies in biological evolution and in the technological and social evolution of the human species - be explained in scientific, physical terms? - John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern made a basic distinction between "zero-sum" games and "non-zero-sum" games -

pg 20

Shoshone Indians - common European supremacism - cultural evolutionism - One premise of cultural evolutionism is "the psychic unity of humankind"-the idea that people everywhere are genetically endowed with the same mental equipment, that there is a universal human nature. The psychic unity of humankind is the reason that around the world, on every continent, cultural evolution has moved in the same direction. The arrow of human history begins with the biology of human nature. - hunter-gatherers - rudimentary social structure of the Shoshone - IOUs are a classic expression of non-zero-sumness - data are often of little or no cost and great benefit; swapping them is one of the oldest forms of non-zero-sum interaction. People by their nature come together to constitute a social information processing system and thus reap positive sums.

pg 243

biological evolution - history: cultural evolution - the two processes have common dynamics; "evolution" isn't just a catchy metaphor for cultural change; at some basic level, cultural evolution and biological evolution have the same machinery - energetic interplay between zero-sum and non-zero-sum forces -organic evolution, given long enough, was very likely to produce creatures so complex, and so intelligent, as to be capable of sponsoring cultural evolution - a cultural evolution that would then naturally extend evolution's general drift toward deeper and vaster complexity. - the second law of thermodynamics - organisms preserve distinctions - growth of an organism creates new order and structure - societies convert energy into material structures - as an organism's various structures preserve the organism against entropic forces, at least some of a society's structures protect the society against disintegration - information technologies - "meaning" isn't meant loosely here. Charles S. Peirce, founder of the philosophy known as pragmatism, believed that the "meaning" of a message is the behavior it induces, behavior appropriate to the information the message carries about the state of the environment. - Data processing permeates even trivial - Cultural information, like all previous forms of organic information, was created to preserve and protect genetic information - "What holds systems together?" is "as fundamental to sociology as it is to biology, - Information is what allows life to defy the spirit, though not the letter, of the second law of thermodynamics. -

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