In one of the many posts in this blog that nobody understands (yeah, I’m cryptic), I argued that if we are going to succeed as species and move on to the next level (so to speak), biology already has the blueprint: a tighter integration of people (us) as organelles of a future true super organism. It is not (only) speculative science fiction.
Now, Tom Oliver, a professor of ecology at the University of Reading, makes the “compelling” argument in “The Self Delusion” that although our illusion of individualism has helped us to succeed as a species, tackling the big global challenges ahead relies on our seeing beyond this mindset and understanding the complex connections between us. (Here, you can take a brief survey to test your connectedness and help with the research.)
Having a strong sense of self can be useful, but excessive individualism has its costs. The more we see ourselves as discrete entities, the more likely we are to feel isolated and lonely and to show “selfish” behaviours. As a consequence, rates of anxiety and depression are rising across the world, while the climate and biodiversity crises deepen ever further.
Yet times are changing. In the last decade, we may have seen individualism peak. Scientific discoveries have revealed how the perception of a distinct self is an illusion…The age of the individual must end – our world depends on it, The Guardian
I think that China offers us both a social lab and a way to foresight into a possible social integration at an unprecedented scale. What’s happening there today is interesting. On the one hand, Chinese society seems to demand more freedom of speech and honesty. On the other hand, Chinese people apparently perceive and accept the social credit system promoted by the government with less concern than the west black mirror’s view– and most of them seem to welcome it.
We are only one step away from becoming truly eusocial (the division of labour into reproductive and non-reproductive groups). And future reproductive technology could provide the foundation stone for the transition… Perhaps, it is not so far away, after all.
I was born in a moment in history where individual freedom was our most sacred principle, and freedom is still the only surviving truth in my personal credo. Therefore I cannot say I see this potential future transition as a good prospect. But who am I to question Evolution’s will?