Ten Billion Treshold for Evolutionary Leaps in Cooperation Capacity

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Jaap van Till:

"1. Peter Russell found that after the Big Bang the millions of years of evolution on Earth can be characterized by a number of sudden transitions: evolutionary leaps where many diverse components combined (interconnected) into a new more complex synergistic entity and platform. For instance atoms –> molecules—>life platforms: cells–> tissues, organs—> bacteria—> animals—> selfconscious humans–> agricultural soc–>Industrial soc–> network society, see [1].

These sudden transitions happen when a threshold is crossed of at least ten billion (10^10) components that do interconnect in a meaningful way and a new order of existence emerges. That seems a staggering number but is not uncommon in nature to have such complex soup present. For instance in bacteria colonies the size of several square cm’s hundreds of billions of bacteria are interconnected. And within each cell of Escherichia coli there are about 4 x 10^10 atoms.

2. In a human baby growing after conception in the womb of his/her mother wonderful things happen. The first is a massive explosion of the growth of number of neurons (complex nerve cells) in brain and spine, starting eight weeks after conception, increasing by many millions each hour. After five weeks this process slows down. The stage of proliferation of neurons in the brain is completed, with about hundred billion cells. Then a second phase of development starts as the billions of isolated nerve cells begin to make connections with eachother, sometimes growing out fibres to connect with cells on the other side of the brain.

Each brain develops these connections in an unique way by a process of selforganization that is NOT centrally controlled by one brain area or programmed by DNA. The cells search as much as possible locally for the best contacts [4].

By the time of birth, a typical nerve cell may communicate directly with several thousand other cells. And the growth of connections continues after birth. 75 % of connections for the babybrain still have to be made after birth and grows 350 gram to 1500 gram with this proliferation of connections. Mainly under influence of the signaling functions of the brain and the incoming information from the different senses. And (self) consiousness, social interactions and learning starts at a impressive pace the first 2 years of childhood and onwards. By the time of adulthood many human nerve cells are making direct connections with as many as a quarter of a million other cells.

3. Similar trends can be observed in human society on this planet. For the last couple of centuries the number of ‘cells’ (humans) in the embryonic global brain has been proliferating, to about 6.5 billion people. But the last decades population growth is slowing down and will reach about 10 billion (!) people in 2020 depending on a number of uncertain factors. But it is also moving into the next phase — the linking of the billions of human minds into 1 single network. At present (2016) there are about 10 billion cell phones sold and about 5 billion people connected to the internet with fixed links or wireless. This looks like a planetary nervous system for a Global Brain that is starting to function, including with memory for knowledge, search engines for pattern recognition and other brainfunctions. " (https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/the-1planet-project-1-the-global-brain-metaphor/)

More information

  • Peter Russell, “The Awakening Earth” – Our Next Evolutionary Leap – ; Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.; 1982
  • Peter Russell, “The Awakening Earth” – The Global Brain – ; ARK PAPERBACKS 1984 an imprint of Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.
  • Peter Russell, “The Global Brain”-The Awakening Earth in a New Century – ; Floris Books 2007 ;