Trees may be smarter than humans, collectively

Cities never die, neither do forests

When I was in Belgrade I read in their official travel guide that the city has been almost completely destroyed and rebuilt 44 times! I mind you that if the chance of not recovering after each destroy was as low as a lucky 5%, then the city would have perished by now with a chance of 90% after the fourty fourth time.

So it occured to me what kind of organism could possibly lose a considerable chunk of its mass and yet survive such many times (spoiler: forests).

I couldn’t also find anything magical about the coordinates of Belgrade, or many other cities for that matter. It’s not like there is an unexhaustable mine or a particular type of access exclusive to that location that would make people rebuild the city over and over again right from there. It’d probably only take a bunch of survivors to take off again.

Or just look at Rome. It has lived under different tyranies, governments and religions, and also under different political systems from slavery, feudalism and capitalism. So, what is that essence that has kept Rome alive as long as there was a little flame left to burn through the next regime?

All companies die. But cities never die.

Geoffrey West’s main findings and his flagship results in his body of work claims this.

He claims that cities not only save energy per capita, but also create more wealth – even per capita. This leads to a closed feedback loop for growth of the cities that is unprecedented in other super-organisms in nature [I would exclude forests before agreeing to this];

Anyhow he rightfully shows with mathematical models that cities, although can be destroyed or wiped out, do not die a natural planned death. Companies, people or animals on the other hand don’t have such double synergistical effect to their growth pattern. So once growth make their building blocks (humans or cells) so their exponential growth stops internally, and not due to exhaustion of resources, then they die. Something that doesn’t happen to cities. Concievably neither to forests.

In the following comes my reading of his work, plus some opinions and critics:

Superorganisms are “alive”

Just like other organisms such superorganisms are formed based on smaller elements coming together to benefit from the economy of scale. So from the perspective of network science, technological or social networks aren’t necessarily different from biological networks. So their similarities make them “alive” in some sense. Cities, companies, forests (I would add civilizations, empires, religious institutions, coral colonies, hives, prehistoric humanoid tribes, etc.) are all alive in a measureable and objective sense, although not necessarily sentient or conscious, which is a quite a different [subjective] story.

Typically all of these network have evolved to reach an equilibrium after growth, and for the same mathematics they all stop growing at a certain point, live up to a rather predictable age and then they die a natural death. By doing so – independent from their mechanism of reproduction – they leave room for the new and the young to repeat the cycle. Nature has favoured this sustainable code over endless number of cycles.

Cities are different, they are in theory ethernal

While there are many parallels one can draw between all these superorganisms, in one sense “cities” seem to be an exception. They by design suck up the resrources around them with no self-correcting mechanism. At least in our current economic model and so far as I know what has been experienced since the first human settlements, we don’t suddenly see a systematic and planned evacuatioon of a city or its division to smaller cities, say for people living a better life, repeating this cycle all over again. We just don’t have a code for it. This has not happened and will not as long as the economy of sclae gives the citizens a double edge to live there, which is again:

Similar to biology the bigger the organism gets the less energy its cells consume, per capita. But unlike biology the bigger you get the more “money” you gain per capita. That positive feedback loop seems to be exceptional to the cities among all the other superorganisms.

The additional glue: Creativity and productivity, driven by money and language

Although just similar to biology that extra wealth per capita translates to smaller homes and less stuff in the center of megacities compared to the country side, because of the rules of the monetary system the economic power such money creates keeps attracting people to the big cities. Wages are higher in big colonies of humans because they seem to follow the rate of productivity, which is higher per capita in bigger colonies. “Stronger input-output linkages, better matching of employees and employers, and invisible but active knowledge spillovers in agglomeration economies” are believed to increased productivity resulting in higher wages. The so-called “agglomeration” economies shaped in desne areas increase creativity (the number of patents as well as wages follow a super-linear fit, fueling the exponential growth of the city. So in retrospect, among other tools the advent of language and the invention of money changed the dynamics of the human network, human creativity was unleashed and an exponential growth pattern, the civilization, emerged from that network.

On an individual level, this effect is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. We people living in big cities, capitals, and close to the power hubs may live in denser areas and consume less energy per capita to warm our habitat compared to residents of the countyside. But we also create more waste due to our higher economical level. We shop more, commute longer to work, travel more, etc. And this economically driven factor is the essense that makes us and our embeding super-organism, the city, rather different from the other super-organisms.

But what other network may also enjoy such a double edged growth patterns of the cities (super-linear gains at sub-linear gain). What other superorganism might be exceptional? Could it be forests and reefs, since their exceptionally long lifespan may tell a story about that additional glue. What keeps them together that could be analogous to the superlinear “glue” of the cities? Why does it seem that – similar to the cities – forests or reefs also last exceptionally long? Do forests and reefs – like their individual trees or corals – have an internalized code for death? Sure they can be killed off or shrink due to external reasons, but they don’t have an internal mechanism to die as a whole.

In other words, what do individual trees benefit from when they are in a bigger and bigger network? What’s in it for individual corals to be in a huge reef than a small one when they can’t even move?

Trees

Do trees have money, or language?

May be!

Also this is far-fetched, I think it could be inferred merely from the physics of the network, considering the emergent properties of a forest, that it is way more than a regular grid. It is a complex network, not only highly clusterized but also with the properties of a small-world network. And thus without a deep knowledge of ecology or forestry even, one could possibly show that trees have a sense of networking, collaboration and communication (likely even symbolic communication with an inventory of signs).

Also, trees have documented track record of “trade”. But do they have a sense of currency, property law, and ownership? Do such concepts necessarity follow the invention of a formal *phonological* language? Those who claim Capitalism is a product of the nature, may have gotten something right.

In linguistics, “double-articulation” is known as the most crucial feature that makes human language differ from other forms of communication in nature. This is the ability to exploit the combinatorics of dual patterns and is extremely powerful since it makes symbolic computation possible.

It is, however, very naive of us humans to assume that such phenomenon evolved first in our species. Both rainforests and reefs seem to possess some network properties (amognst others self-similarity, small-world and high clusterization) that could be an infrastructure for an phonological [alphabetic] mind capable of symbolic computation, given a random mutation of dual patterns.

This may be the hidden story behind any of the evolutionary leaps on earth, and not just the last one. And it could mean, with all the seriousness, that rainforests or reefs, as intelligent superorganisms have literally invented animals the same way we invented cars. And for short-term or long-term reasons.

It’s a testable hypothesis to see if rainforests have evolved, say, their own stock market somewhere down in the ground. I just wonder if like ours it ever crashes once in a while in some million years! A bit more far-fetched than that, the urbanization and the human experiment, us, could be one of those crashes!

Does vegetation has similar properties as urbaniation? Do rainforests possess a collective intelligene comparable to that of Sillicon Valley, Wall Street or Holley Wood? Are they creative, productive and experimental?

How crazy is that?! Not crazy at all.

Atheism vs. Agnosticism

If you identify yourself as a non-believer, possibly with some history of hostility towards organized religions, would you call yourself an Atheist, or an Agnostic?

I can’t care less about labels and names. But since they have a practical use – saving time and energy – we can discuss them.

* * *

Once upon a time nefore the chemical outbrake of puberty introduced a wave of changes in my body, it impacted my mind. I rebelled – still quite analyctically – against the delusions of the local culture, which let to tossing out religions amonst some other outdated codes. I turned in to a non-believe and I called it atheism three years later when I learned that I am not only alone, but there may be even a conventional name for the state of my belief system. And it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized agnosticism is a better term to describe this state.

Typically the naive distinction between atheism and agnosticism is tested with whether or not one would answer “No”, or “I don’t know” to the question of existence of *any* God. This is in the grey zone, and a metter of definition and interpretation: How do we define God?

Some believe in Gods because in the hierarchy of beings in the vast universe and possibly beyond, there can be creatures above us. Aliens, Gods, simulators, our own Gaia or some parts of it, concious super-organisms that we may can be their building blocks, etc. All these can have God-like powers over us, by shaping and controlling us. But is that all it takes to be a God?

The problem here is that all these beings, even if proven and spotted, are things just like us. They have weaknesses and struggles for their own survival, and simply put they aren’t “in charge”. They don’t have control. A God that knows how everything at every level unfolds, comes from a much motr strict definition of God and that is a level of God-ness that I am a non-believer in. This is a very generic definition for a God, one who has made everything, knows it all, and can control all existence at all its levels. But to me its existance still as unlikely as exotic concept such as Allah, Jesus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Atheists – including my past self – typically view agnostics as mild atheists. Atheists that have woken up but not quite enough to completely get over their religion, and they may be statistically right. But to me agnosticism isn’t compromised atheism. It’s an ultimate state disbelief. So an agnostic refuses religion, but also atheism itself as a replacement that could be vulnerable to the flaws and biases of any other man-made culture. And this was the point that I had not understood in the spiritual beliefs of not-quite-atheist thinkers like Spinoza, Darwin or Einstein.

So agnosticism that I refer to is more of a non-believer than atheism. And as there are infinitely many ways to define God, there can be infinitely many levels in between agnoticism and atheism. The atheist culture, perhaps in order to unify better against the organized religions, wants these two classes and all in between them to collapse in one. But in my eyes they are quite distinct, and I think there are a lot of interesting belief systems also in between them.

I may be going through another phase of chemical changes but currently I feel like I am somewhere in that in-between space.

“That was my point”

I think those gun owners who compare mass shooting to rape have a valid point.

The main reason behind mass shooting is not guns or victims, religion or the second amendment, is the individual who abuses them, the mass shooter.

The main reason behind rape is not human penis, provocative clothing or rape regulations. Is the rapist.

But of course confiscating all guns from a city will reduce mass shootings. And cutting off everyone’s penis will certainly put an end to the rape problem forever.

One of them just seems a little easier than the other. So it may not be a crazy idea after all.

To cut off everyone’s penis!

You matter!

This made me confess that, honestly, it’s been a while since I accepted (or forced myself to believe) that – just like you – I am being watched.

Not only by some unknown pairs of eyes sitting at NSA envying Snowden for his courage, but also by my grand children – already! – having fun in an extrapolated virtual reality of my life in data-archeological musuems of the future (if my boring practices interests any of them at all).

That’s why I find myself at ease assuming that we are at different simulations at the same time. The human park owner of the future, the alien simulator, God and the big brother are all staring at you.

This at least shows that you matter to someone.

“Dominator” for dummies

Communism aims at a society without the state. So it gives the ownership to the community. The few representatives of the community then represent the whole population and eventually set their own agenda, enslaving the rest. Anywhere they tried it on this planet they ended up making the most authoritarian forms of state.
Communism, whatever it promises, seeks for domination. Communism is a dominator.

* * *

Capitalism aims at economic and political freedom. So it gives the ownership to individuals. Some Individuals will eventually find a way to take up proportionally much more space and use up much more resources than others. Those few end up setting their own agenda, enslaving the rest.
Capitalism, whatever it pledges, seeks for domination. Capitalism is a dominator.

* * *

There are millions of ideas out there, and zillions of ways to implement them. But we know only few. Do you know why? Because they are “dominators”. They dominated first, so we heard about them. We realized they exist.

Take down the dominators, wherever you find them!

Your mom knows better!

Kitchen was certainly one of the areas of life that I tried to liberate myself.

… from culturally reinforced rules and regulations. I understood that “culture is not my friend”, and changed the way I had seen people do Persian food. Especially when I moved to Norway I regarded many of those common recipes as religious superstitions and started to do things my own way.

Amongst others, I got rid of my mom’s superstitious way of cooking rice! That for better quality rice must be “soaked, rinced and drained” prior to it being “boiled, drained and steamed”. So from those six stages I skipped the first three and made a shortcut to the last three to save time.

There I hacked a couple of other things too. Not waiting for cold water to boil in a pot and do it faster in an electric kettle first. Then pouring it in to an already hot empty pot. So deconstructing the axiom of “ingredients first, heat second”. Also removed that useless ugly “damkoni”, the fabric Iranian housholds use to cover the pot’s lid. As I assumed it’s meant to tighten the lid so steam doesn’t escape, though its actual function is to absorb the stem, so it doesn’t condence and drip in the rice.

After all the end result was still delicious!

Now turns out that my shortcuts were costly, sometimes even cancerous. And my mother was right!

Guys, those of you who don’t follow your mom’s recipe will eventually get cancer and die out. Evolution will take care of you and your recipes, so don’t dare to mutate in the codes of the collective wisdom when it comes to cuisine.

Your mom knows better!

Language

It’s everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. That you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
– Matrix (1999)

Fish

This is the definition of “the Matrix” as explained by Morpheus to Neo.

Now, what other concept suits this definition – word by word – even better than the Matrix? What actual thing in the day-to-day world matches this description just as perfect if not more? That you don’t see it cause it’s everywhere. Like water to the fish?

Mother Earth ain’t virgin!

Watch this awesome video to the end, history of the entire world.

The short story of everything – and I mean everything big enough – seems to be like this: long equilibriums connected with quick leaps.

From all the major leaps mentioned here (that are allegedly self-organized) I can believe in the authonomy of the most farfetched ones, the least imaginable transitions:

– I can buy that cells decided to benefit from the economy of scale and thus shaped organs and animals so quickly to the extreme extent of the Cambrian explosion (2′:51″).

– Similarly I can believe that the technological singularity (19′:17″) that we are experiencing live, is taking place on its own. You may call it the artificial super-intelligence, the transcendental object or as in this video “the thing inventor inventor”. It is currently unfolding before our eyes and it doesn’t seem to be guided remotely. By a typical interventionist conscious God, through any dashboard or something equivalent.

– It is also believable that the sudden increase in the brain size of the human ape and the advent of the double-articulated language (and thus the human mind – 4′:11″) happened without an alien intervention.

The unjustified leap: But there is one mysterious transition. A leap too giant in too short time, to assume it just emerged on its own and on the surface of our planet:

– The geological to biological transformation of the earth (2′:17″). How come as the planet cooled down (and became in a sense fertile) cells appeared so quickly? Every good story that I have heard skips over this leap, ignores the magnitude of such transition and fast forwards. Science knows nothing about this.

So how did cells – such extremely complicated machines – appear on Earth? How were they cooked on a geologically active planet? How did the instruction sheet of all living organisms appeared through rocks? All that advanced DNA computation and dataflows, the advent of life, where did it come from?

The archetype: Just decoding one of the deepest archetypes for further investigation:

Mother Earth ain’t virgin!