The first two chapters structures of organisms than on the capabilities they display in order to survive were devoted to showing that natural selection acts less on the physical and further evolve. My thesis is that most of these capabilities can be achieved by a wide range of different body plans and behavior patterns. If this is correct, then specific body shapes or behaviors are clearly not decisive. Rather, the key criterion is the capability achieved, the result attained, i.e. success. I will demonstrate later in the book that this is a measurable entity.
I presented numerous examples showing that organs which fulfill vital tasks need not necessarily be firmly attached to the body of the organism they serve. The organ’s degree of integration has no bearing on natural selection, which decides what organisms ultimately survive and reproduce; the material making up these organs and their specific genesis is also irrelevant. Successful capability remains the ultimate measure. From this perspective, organisms are capable entities more than mere physical phenomena.
As a rule, the organs of most organisms are composed of cells. There is, however, another approach to enhancing capability. Here, innate behavior leads the fully developed cellular body to form additional organs which are not firmly attached to it and that consist either of the body's own secretions or of material from the surrounding environment. Such capability-enhancing structures – the spider's web or the ant lion’s sand funnel – are generally viewed as a "product" rather than as a part of the organism. Nonetheless, such structures promote capability and increase selective value much as cellular organs do. This role in natural selection is the basis for my assertion that they are integral components of the organism as a capable entity.
This second avenue of organ formation is relatively rare in evolution. Why? Perhaps because it requires rather complex behavioral control mechanisms, mechanisms that can only develop via mutation and recombination under very advantageous conditions. This strategy has led to marked progress in only a handful of animal groups, which explains why it has never received full recognition or why the underlying processes have never been viewed as organ formation.
The more advanced vertebrates have developed individual behavior control mechanisms through learning. This ability culminated in organisms whose exceptional mental capabilities enabled additional organs to be formed to fit particular needs. Furthermore, language enables these organisms to communicate to each other instructions on how to produce and use these additional organs. Decoupling this process from innate behavior patterns and from the genome accelerated the speed at which such independent organs could be obtained. This unfettered mode of organ formation boosted performance to previously unknown levels. Since we humans are the organisms at this evolutionary crossroad, we find it difficult to analyze this transition objectively.
A key aspect here is that man is not merely one of many
mammal species. Rather, human beings are functionally most comparable with
those unicellular organisms that gave rise to multicellular organisms.
Just as every multicellular organism continues to originate from a unicell
(the germ cell), every larger capable entity that man has produced from
additional organs always has a human being in the "control room". I term
these larger living units hypercell organisms and contend that they represent
the direct continuation of uni- and multicellular evolution.
The turning point
Learned representatives from virtually every school of thought have dealt exhaustively with man‘s position in life, which has remained one of the key philosophical issues over the centuries. We will examine some of these approaches in more detail here. A particularly important question is what makes our mental capabilities so very superior to those of our closest relatives. No investigation has shed more light on this topic than Wolfgang Köhler's experiments with chimpanzees, which were already conducted in 1921.
The bait in these experiments was a banana suspended from the roof of a tall cage. The objects necessary to reach the banana included empty crates that were strewn about the cage and that could be stacked on top of each other, along with stick sections that could be inserted into one another to produce a long stick. The intelligence of the chimpanzees (which are very close to humans on the evolutionary ladder) was tested by examining whether they were capable of obtaining the desired fruit under these circumstances.
Some particularly intelligent individuals were actually successful. After a series of failed attempts, outbursts of anger, "thinking pauses", and renewed attempts, they managed to grasp the situation and solve the problem. However, when Köhler scattered the crates and stick sections in a number of cages connected by passageways, none of the experimental animals was able to reach the banana. Why? Apparently because the crates and sticks were no longer simultaneously present in their field of view. One particular advance of human intelligence over highly intelligent animals, whether they be our close relatives the chimpanzees or members of other groups such as octopuses, is that we are able to link experiences - even when we perceive them with a spatial or temporal delay - by using our brain, our powers of imagination, our fantasy. This enables us to recall and combine "in our minds" impressions and experiences that we gain in different places and at different times. Then, to the extent our memory allows, we can compare and weigh these events, much like on a film screen. We objectively incorporate ourselves into this interplay of images and thoughts, a process that we experience as self-awareness. We can hatch any number of plans, deliberate the consequences of specific actions, and use our combination skill and planning ability to discover mistakes in a potential implementation phase without having to carry out the scenario in real life. Humankind has the opportunity to do precisely what evolution has done through countless mutations and recombinations - only we can test the chances of success in advance. The only prerequisite is the necessary intellectual tools, i.e. the impressions and experience relevant to the problem at hand. We can then call upon these to promote our inner examination of causalities and their effects.
It is questionable whether science will ever succeed in precisely determining the where and how of this new capability in the highly interlinked network of ganglia in our cerebral cortex. There can be no doubt, however, that the brain is at work here. After all, various levels of competence exist and this ability can decrease significantly or be lost altogether when we are tired, sick or suffer brain damage.
The successive development of learning and combination skills has certain parallels in bridge construction. In building a bridge, the last few meters are decisive, regardless of the bridge's total length, because they ultimately make the connection to the opposite shore and open the new path. Equally, the above learning skills, which can be traced back to unicellular organisms, may have merely required a tiny last step to "reach the other shore", where novel opportunities arose.
This process is directly applicable to improved capability: the competence for one decisive ability, namely the ability to form new, capability-enhancing organs, has been transferred in humans from the genome into the realm of the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for thought processes. In one fell swoop it is shifted from one unit (the DNA strands of the genome) to a completely different one (the ganglion cells of the cerebral cortex). This transition to another unit was the springboard for an incalculable number of further capability enhancements. No specific "macromutations" were necessary for this step, an issue we will discuss later in this book. Nonetheless, this capability shift would have had little repercussion had not a second shift taken place at the same time. Specifically, the differentiated language communication between human beings enabled us to directly impart the ongoing progress to others. It was no longer necessary to code the instructions for additional organs and their use into the DNA strands of the genome.
This second shift also involved transferring an important function from one physical structure to a completely different one, namely from the genome to the cerebral cortex (more precisely, from the region of the genes responsible for reproduction to the regions of the cerebral cortex responsible for language). This shift also represents a major leap forward, because the first functional unit in no way directly influenced the second. Here, one organ complex (the cerebral cortex) did, however, interfere in the traditional competence of another. It took over the other's tasks in the body's division of labor and, moreover, it did the job better. This enabled progress far beyond the capabilities of the original unit. I call this process a shift, a term which further underlines the difference to mutations. In the case of favorable mutations, a change in the physical structure of the genome leads to improved capabilities. In the case of a shift, capabilities are transferred from one organ complex to another (and entirely different selection pressures are at work at the two levels). Thus, there is no direct causal relationship between the formation of the former and the origin of the latter. As in mutations, chance rather than directed intent underlies this process.
In using the term shift for such capability transfers, we must keep one thing in mind: although shifts can open astounding new opportunities, it may take considerable time to translate these opportunities into reality. As far as mankind’s additional organs are concerned, their actual formation and the language communication on how to construct and use them was initially very slow and hesitant. For over one million years, primitive man used suitably formed stones or their fragments to improve the capability of his hand (pebble culture). It took another million years for these largely unworked hand axes and their flakes to be modified into scrapers, knives, drills, and the like. Over this long period of time, our ancestors had no doubt already used quite a number of additional organs made of plant and animal material, material that left no traces (digging tools, throwing spears, animal skins, leather shoes, ropes, nets, traps, etc.). Only in the last 10 000 years have we taken full advantage of these eminent advances. Inventions that improved mobility, transmitted information and exploited energy created a positive feedback loop and were instrumental in accelerating this process.
Beyond these two shifts - if we agree to continue using this term for transfers of capabilities from one functional unit to another - a third shift was equally important for the "emergence" of man. After all, none of the advances characterizing the hypercell organisms formed by humans would ever have occurred had our ancestors not been equipped with suitable anatomical features at this critical junction; these features enabled them to translate enhanced capability into action. Specifically, our hands, with their opposable thumbs, were ideally suited to use and build tools. It is common knowledge that we owe this to the arboreal habits of our ancestors in primeval forests. This third functional unit, with its somewhat more prosaic history, had to be added in order not only to reach the "far shore" but to be able to take concrete action once there. The key role our hands played in making us what we are (and in allowing us to create what we have created) is often neglected in the light of our intellectual progress. At any rate, value judgements are superfluous in evaluating key evolutionary capabilities. This can perhaps best be illustrated with a practical example.
Let us examine dolphins for example. Training experiments in oceanaria and dolphin brain structure reveal that these animals - terrestrial mammals that have returned to the sea - are particularly intelligent and are capable of highly differentiated acoustic communication. Nonetheless, even in millions of years, dolphins will never be able to embark on an evolutionary pathway rivaling that of mankind. Why? Because they lack suitable grasping organs to build and successfully apply tools. Take one chain of developments as an example: they will never be able to produce or much less use a pencil; nor will they be able to construct a mailbox or develop a postal service. At the same time, the embryogenesis of these toothed whales is still characterized by anterior extremities with segmented fingers. These relicts, however, are incorporated into stiff flippers and can no longer be reactivated. Equally, mutation and recombination will never be able to convert these flippers into efficient grasping organs.
This example demonstrates how a combination of quite different capabilities was often necessary to promote the development of life. Although some capabilities require more highly differentiated physical structures than others, evolution relies on capabilities with very different qualities. We humans tend to view the intellectual level as something entirely separate and unique. As far as capability is concerned, however, no development is principally more valuable than the other. Our prehensile hand, which we owe to climbing activity in primeval trees, is a case in point. Conversely, even strenuous intellectual endeavor can lead to disastrous failures, while coincidence has often sparked significant inventions and successes.
What capability shift took place in the simian hand? In this case the environment changed rather than the organ. Approximately 3 million years ago, primeval forests became less dense due to climate changes and the savannas expanded. According to modern theory, this explains why certain apes moved into such steppe regions and adapted to the conditions there. The process involved taking on an erect body posture and a bipedal stride using the hind limbs; the anterior extremities and grasping hands were thus freed for other tasks. This was the prerequisite for actually using additional organs: the initial use of branches and stones as digging tools and throwing spears was followed by hand axes, scrapers, and an ever-greater array of additional capabilities.
Thus, a particular capability is not shifted to another
functional unit. Rather, an organ originally designed for one function
(climbing in trees) unexpectedly enables a significantly enhanced capability
in another functional realm. This additional opportunity for sudden progress
will be discussed in more detail later,
The specialist in versatile specialization
From the evolutionary perspective, how can we evaluate humans – these unusual multicellular organisms – who continue to enhance the capability of their genetic bodies with an increasing number of additional organs? The organisms treated in previous chapters, those whose additional organs are based on innate behavior, can hardly be compared with humankind. Their additional organ formation typically enhances only a single capability (for example feeding, defense, reproduction), as a rule making them into extreme specialists. Humans, on the other hand, have reached a stage where they can use additional organs to improve both vital capabilities inherent to all organisms and a wide range of "lesser" activities. This enables us to alternately specialize in very different activities. As Teilhard de Chardin said so poignantly "one and the same individual can at the same time be mole, bird or fish". Among all animals, "man has the ability to bring variety into his work, without ultimately becoming its slave".
At this point, it would be opportune to briefly recall the general advantages and disadvantages of specialists. The more an organism specializes itself for a particular task, the greater its superiority over its competition in biotopes and niches where this task is critical. In fact, numerous extremely specialized species monopolize their role in the system. On the other hand, this opportunity represents a trade-off with correspondingly greater risk: altered environmental conditions, for example food items, greatly diminish their chances for survival. Blood-sucking mosquitoes depend on specific prey from which they draw blood with their modified mouthparts. Mistletoe, which has spared itself the costly formation of trunks and roots, loses its special status and the privileges that go with it under conditions that negate the underlying strategy. Should the bird species responsible for disseminating the plant become extinct, for example, then the mistletoe is doomed.
Human employment is no different. In today's ever more complex economy, every fresh demand becomes a new niche that can be occupied by a specialist supplier. Monopolies are rapidly established when only one supplier can fill the vacuum.
Konrad Lorenz characterized man as "the specialist in non-specialization". He based this judgement on the fact that humans, as generalists, have a highly diverse repertoire of capabilities. It would be nothing unusual for a human being - in a single day - to walk 35 kilometers, climb a 5 meter rope, dive 4 meters and then swim underwater 15 meters, picking objects up along the way, something that "no other mammal could do". This characterization of man is no doubt correct if one adheres to the traditional view that additional organs need not be considered. These very organs, however, provide the basis for man's superiority and selective value. A naked human being, growing up in isolation, has virtually no chances of survival in this day and age. The traditional perspective denies man's uniqueness as the only organism capable of continuously changing its body.
A native hunting a gazelle with his throwing spear is more highly specialized than most predators. By stowing the spear in his hut and taking to the water in a boat, which allows him to cross a river without getting wet, he becomes an entirely different specialist. Evolution has never brought forth the likes of this on our planet: an organism that can change its capabilities at will. From this perspective, man can better be described as a specialist in versatile specialization.
As humans, we find nothing more difficult than freeing ourselves from our own subjective self-assessment. No one would argue with the fact that tools, weapons, machines, buildings and other technical aids significantly increase our capabilities, and most people would put up a good fight should someone try to steal such an additional organ. Since our nerves and blood vessels do not extend into these units, we consider them to be something separate; we give no thought to the fact that such units would be of no real use to us if they were attached to our bodies.
In his system of living organisms, Carl von Linné classified man as the species Homo sapiens. The term Homo habilis, subsequently chosen by Louis Leakey to designate one of our ancestors, indicates that the key feature was less man's intellectual capability than the tasks he applied these capabilities to. According to my theory, our early ancestor represents both the last multicellular organism in an evolutionary line encompassing the apes, as well as the first hypercellorganism: the first organism capable of indefinitely increasing the capability of its body by using intellectual prowess to form additional organs. Forever changing, humans can alternately specialize in any number of tasks. The prerequisite is that these additional organs can be put aside, i.e. their separateness-from-the-body. When we pick up a pencil to write a letter, we are specialized for an entirely different task than when we subsequently juggle with pots and pans to cook a meal in the kitchen. This first representative of a new era in evolution – the hypercell organism – warrants a new name. I have chosen Homo proteus, a term stemming from Greek mythology: Proteus was a cave-dwelling giant capable of changing his appearance at will. Like a magician, humans are capable of artificially supplementing and improving upon their bodies. This is the essential feature.
In my travels around the world, I filmed people carrying out a wide range of tasks. In order to minimize my influence on their activities, I used a lens with a built-in mirror, leading the people to believe that I was filming in the other direction. At the same time, I altered the normal speed of events with time lapse and, in close-ups, with slow motion techniques. I recognized that this type of filming forces our brain to view people from an unaccustomed perspective, leading to interesting insights. On the island of Bali, I used this method to film a brick-maker at work. The "accelerated" film later clearly revealed the mechanical coordination of his movements. Using consistently the same movements, he filled a simple wood form with clay, wiped the surface smooth, and lifted the frame: 12 new bricks lay on the ground to dry. He then placed the wood form on the ground next to this row and refilled the dozen compartments with clay. Several months later I filmed the movements of autoworkers on an assembly line in Germany. One segment involved two men working on a special-purpose machine whose operation required approximately 80 precise hand movements. One of the men was a beginner, and the film analysis clearly showed the difficulties he had with correctly carrying out these movements and completing the sequence in an economic manner. The second man had two years of experience on the machine and his movements were optimally coordinated. Although the machine was clearly a separate entity, it nevertheless seemed to form a unit with his body. It had become an integral component of his capable entity, even if its metallic frame was not infused with his nerves and blood vessels.
This analysis gave me an important and unexpected insight. Every such coordination between a human being and a machine or tool is accompanied by the formation of special control "software" in the brain of the operator. Its structure probably resembles the innate programs controlling instinct behavior in animals. As experiments with brain probes show, these programs represent complex "wiring" between numerous ganglion cells. In humans and all animals with learning ability, such control programs develop through learning and become functional units much like the machine or tool they control. They clearly also represent additional, capability-enhancing units, even though they are not separate from the body, but arise in the brain due to modified ganglion structure. Simply put: additional organs need not necessarily be separate from the body. The decisive factor is that their production and control is not coded in the genome and cannot be passed on by cell division.
In all "learning animals" that are unable to pass their experience and achievements on to their progeny or other conspecifics, this information is lost with the death of the individual. They therefore contribute nothing to the higher development of the respective species. Humans, on the other hand, can pass this information on to others in the form of gestures, language or writing. They "reproduce" themselves and increase the capability within the population, independent of their genome.
It should be stressed that virtually every additional organ formed by Homo proteus requires still other organs, namely altered, organic body structures. From the onset, two very different types of additional organs were therefore equally important for this versatile specialist, who ushered in the era of the hypercell organism. The first are consciously built of material from the surrounding environment and are subjectively not considered to be components of the human body (extracorporal) because they are separate from the body and are not composed of cells. The second arise via the learning process and become so ingrained in the ganglionic mass that we never consider them to be true organs even though they deliver vital capabilities much like the heart or lungs. Moreover, since one type cannot function without the other, both influence the selective value of the capable entity. Both are also essential to measure selective values, which will be discussed later in this book.
The formation of additional organs enabled Homo proteus and all subsequent hypercell organisms to improve practically all fundamental and most supplementary capabilities that characterize virtually every living organism. Clearly, the emphasis was originally on additional defense organs and organs that helped procure food. No life process (and no reproduction) is possible without energy and matter. In humans, as in all other animals, feeding is a predatory act controlled by an innate drive. It must be emphasized that our ancestors‘ novel intellectual capabilities, their self-awareness and new behavior control mechanisms (attained consciously by learning), never stood in opposition to innate predatory instincts. On the contrary, intelligence and instinct went hand in hand to achieve optimal results: intelligence became a tool for efficient hunting and gathering and skilled defensive action.
Using artificially produced weapons, hypercell organisms were more successful than the competition in bagging prey and fighting off predators. They were better able to withstand natural selection, to conquer and occupy new habitats. The cultivation of plants and the domestication of animals were the next two major feats of human intelligence. In the case of farming, the intellectual act lies in recognizing that fruits and seeds - if they are placed in suitable soil rather than eaten - can after months or even years multiply the food supply many times over. The insight in animal domestication is similar: it is more advantageous not to kill and eat the captured animals (as our instincts would dictate), but to care for, feed and protect them until they reproduce. The result is that - months or years later - meat can be put on the table with much less effort than by hunting or setting traps. Both new approaches require additional organs, namely those for clearing the land and tilling the soil, for cages, fences and stables for the animals. Above all, they require mental effort and powers of imagination to combine cause and effect (even if the latter is much delayed) and thus to arrive at new, directed behavior control mechanisms.
From the evolutionary standpoint this constellation undeniably allowed Homo proteus to become a particularly efficient and successful predator. He was able to form settlements, induce the soil to satisfy his needs, and spare himself unnecessary risk and long migrations. Directed breeding efforts even enabled him to create new breeds of animals and plants that were more useful than the original species. This process later led Darwin to recognize an analogous selection driven by environmental factors: over the course of evolution this automatically allowed the fittest individual to succeed in the "struggle for existence". The resulting natural selection led to ever better adapted, more efficient and more highly differentiated species. This, in turn, allowed new species specialized for other environmental conditions to branch off.
We often tend to overlook the fact that members of the same species (conspecifics) are inevitably dangerous competitors or even bitter enemies. Their common structural features and innate behavior make them strong competitors for the same sources of energy and substances and thus the foremost rivals for food resources. This is already evident in plants. Since sunlight is generally available in abundant supply, intraspecific competition in plants mainly involves suitable sites and soils as well as water resources, which may be difficult to tap on land. Nonetheless, the fact that undergrowth and trees tend to lift their leaves above those of the competition clearly shows that an intense struggle is also underway for the available light. In animals, this competition is clearly directed at food or prey, which provides both energy and substances.
This situation is aggravated in social species that live in packs or other groups. Such associations are hierarchically higher living units; for them, packs of other conspecifics inevitably pose the greatest threat because they compete for the same food resources. This explains why natural selection in pack-forming animals promotes innate behaviors that more closely bind its members to the group, that favor a division of labor, and that ultimately make this larger unit more competitive. This gives rise to social instincts such as a readiness to support group members, to submit to the command of alpha animals, or even to give one's life for the group. It is also expressed in the innate readiness to fight competing packs, even though these are composed of members of the same species.
The same holds true for Homo proteus. He lived in smaller social groups, much like his ancestors and modern primates. As soon as he began to improve his somatic body with additional organs, however, his behavior toward conspecifics entered a new era. As mentioned above, additional organs yield decisive advantages: they do not burden humans when not in use, they are exchangeable, and they permit versatile specialization. Within groups, several members can join together to form larger communal organs that no one individual could create. These can benefit all members of the group and help increase their capability. Examples might include larger structures such as a bridges, fortifications or aqueducts. The vital role played by such communal organs will be the topic of later chapters. On the other hand, additional organs that are separate from the cellular body have a serious, inherent problem: the fact that they can be used by others makes it tempting to steal or otherwise annex them for one’s own capable entity.
In this connection, bear in mind that throughout the course of evolution virtually no organism was ever in a position to steal a cellular organ from another organism. When one animal eats another, it breaks down the organ's matrix and uses the energy and matter contained therein to build up its own body. Unfortunately, on average 90% of the original energy is lost in this process. The theft of an additional organ, however, entails no such loss. When hypercell organism A steals a knife from hypercell organism B, the knife fulfils its function without restriction or loss of value (as long as A knows how to handle this tool).
Within associations, the inclination to thievery is counteracted by laws, religion and social mores, an issue we will return to later. On the other hand, human intelligence was also clearly applied with great success in such illegal activity.
This supports the argument that the hypercell organisms formed by humans have more cause to encounter each other with hostility than pack-forming animals. Enemy territory itself was no longer the most valuable booty for organized groups of Homo proteus; rather, the productive fields and animal herds, above all the many weapons, tools, clothes, buildings and other additional organs (all of the foreign community’s possessions that can be directly appended to the new owners' capable entities) became a much more profitable target.
The great advantages that additional organs provided to
hypercell organisms were burdened from the onset with a serious handicap:
they invited forcible acquisition. A philosopher living at the time of
the first additional organs might well have predicted that hypercell organisms
would wage wars fiercer than anything known in the animal kingdom, even
when logic and emotional considerations clearly argued against such hostilities.
This, however, was the price that the specialist in versatile specialization
had to pay for the privilege of ushering in a new era in the evolutive
Exchange of capabilities and the function of money
Just as the first multicellular organisms arose from unicells nearly 1.8 billion years ago, Homo proteus ushered in the era of hypercell organisms approximately 2 million years ago. In both cases, the transitions shifted capabilities to new, more efficient units. In multicellular organisms, multicelled organs took over the function of the unicells' organelles. In hypercell organisms, additional organs (directly formed of material from the surrounding environment) increased the capabilities of multicellular organs or replaced them with something better. Our overview of the development of hypercell organisms should begin with a closer examination of some of the more important evolutionary advances that they initiated.
A human being is always at the core of each hypercell organism: he or she increases the capabilities of his or her body with additional organs. In higher-level hypercell organisms such as business enterprises, groups of specialized humans can form the central core. Man‘s cellular body - the constructive basis and control center - remains largely unchanged and reproduces itself as usual. The decisive factor for natural selection, however, is the additional, artificially produced organs. They promote ever-new special capabilities and are reproduced independently by an entirely different mechanism. The first question we should examine is: who produces them?
Homo proteus, who sparked this new development, initially produced additional organs for himself and his family. Today this is still the case in certain indigenous tribes living in remote areas. As in other more highly developed mammals, early man developed a division of labor. The woman was mainly responsible for children and household, while the man‘s most important task was to defend the group, which initially consisted of only a few families. Both partners helped put food on the table: the male hunted and trapped, the female along with her children collected fruit, edible roots and small animals. Both partners were also involved in producing additional organs: the male primarily tools, weapons and dwellings, the female clothing, nets, carrying bags, jewelry, etc.
From the functional perspective, the first major advance in the development of hypercell organisms was virtually preprogrammed: individuals within the small associations specialized in producing particularly important additional organs. This led to improved products and more rationalized production - a decisive advantage against rival and hostile groups. Of course, these specialized producers had to be freed from their remaining duties, especially their hunting and defensive roles. This presented no real problem as long as the association remained relatively small. The leader was entrusted with organizing this group structure. Since all members profited from a well-developed division of labor, there was little reason to change this winning formula. The leadership was often handed down from father to son.
As the communities grew, however, serious problems became inevitable. On one hand, a greater number of people was advantageous in clashes with other groups because larger communities allowed for ever greater differentiation and specialization. On the other hand, it became increasingly difficult to retain an overview of the many specialists and their needs. At some point it became more opportune for these first tradesmen to themselves provide for their own and their family’s interests by barter.
This book makes no attempt to reconstruct the historical process. Research in the fields of prehistory and early history show that it was by no means uniform everywhere. My concern is to show that the production of such essential additional organs put the development of hypercell organisms on a predetermined track. We have clearly viewed ourselves and our development much too subjectively. This book pursues the question of how to interpret our explosive development if we refrain from viewing ourselves as something separate from the remainder of evolutionary history. What if we accept ourselves as integral components in a development that gave rise to man and that continues today via larger units of our own making? From this perspective, our radiation is in no way as autonomous and free as previously thought. Rather, it is subject to the conditions underlying evolutionary history as a whole. Natural selection remains the formative force behind species radiation even in this third phase of evolution (where speciation has shifted to generating established professions. Even at the level of hypercell organisms, natural selection decides which units are successful in the struggle for existence. From the evolutionary viewpoint, our cellular body – with which our ego identifies - is by no means the decisive element. Rather, the forces of natural selection work on the capable entities we have formed, entities I term hypercell organisms. The crucial element here is the fundamental capabilities basic to all organisms.
The subsequent development of hypercell organisms eventually came up against a seemingly banal yet critical barrier: the producers of additional organs had difficulty trading the product of their work for goods they needed to live. This can best be illustrated with a trivial but convincing example. If a craftsman makes a pair of shoes and his wife needs three eggs, then a barter transaction is impracticable because of the great difference in value. A mediating entity that would remedy this functional dilemma was sorely missing. The optimal solution was a further additional organ: money. This universal mediating factor made capabilities arbitrarily divisible and convertible into the products of the capabilities of others. The shoemaker could procure the three eggs mentioned above without incurring any loss. The divisibility of money enabled a trouble-free exchange of entirely different objects. The concrete value of any product automatically resulted from the effort involved in producing it and from the relationship between supply and demand. From an evolutionary viewpoint, money is a tool to transform one product of human labor into any other product of human labor.
As demonstrated earlier, the advent of man went hand in hand with significantly enhanced capability. This involved a transfer of functions much like when one cell association takes over the duties of an entirely different one. I introduced the term shift for this phenomenon and provided an example in which the genome's task of forming and reproducing new organs was transferred to the much more efficient cerebral cortex. A similar shift took place when the grasping hand we inherited from our simian ancestors suddenly became a perfect tool for building and using organs.
Let us return to the function of money and re-analyze the shoemaker’s situation. He specializes in producing the footwear we use daily. Learning processes have instilled the corresponding control mechanisms for the most skillful and competent production of these products in his brain. Shoemaking has survived as a profession to this day. It is in no way related to procuring food or producing other additional organs such as pliers, bicycles or vacuum cleaners. Yet by receiving money for his shoes, his wife can easily purchase three eggs or a pair of pliers; and if he pools the money earned from the sale of several pairs of shoes, he can buy a bicycle or vacuum cleaner. This is by no means as self-evident and simple as it sounds. Never in evolution has one organism gained access to the labor of numerous others by specializing in a particular task. Symbioses, which will be discussed later, also essentially involve an exchange of capabilities: each partner benefits because the other requires a crucial capability. This can also be designated as a shift. Nonetheless, functionally, such a partnership bears no relation to taking advantage of many capabilities of many organisms based on a single type of specialization. This functionally characterizes the full implication of money, which has become the cornerstone of the entire economy. For the first time in evolutionary history, this "magic wand" (no exaggeration when referring to money) enables life forms (hypercell organisms) to supplement their capable entities with an unlimited number of others merely by specializing in a single capability.
A prerequisite for this development is a larger, well-organized community. The additional organ money, however, remains the common denominator fueling the process. It should come as no surprise that money, like virtually every other organ, requires specific conditions to function properly. These include divisibility into sufficiently small units, acceptance within a community, and a value that can be maintained at stable levels. On the other hand, the advantage of being able to enjoy the labors of others at will is so great, that the advent of money can be termed a "mega-shift": nothing comparable existed in the entire history of life. It is responsible for the ever-accelerating progress of hypercell organs and therefore of mankind. It also shows how greatly hypercell organisms rely on each other, how little the humans at their core remain "individuals", and the extent to which they have generated an immense, incredibly complex organization that simultaneously strives to attain a thousand different goals while being internally linked by an enormous number of interactions.
Quite a few biologists felt (and many still do) that the known mechanisms behind improvements (mutation, recombination, selection) must be supplemented by others to satisfactorily explain evolution. A time span of four billion years is considerable, yet still appears to be very short to accommodate the development of highly advanced animals and their many capabilities. This problem would have been solved by Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck's postulated mechanism involving the "inheritance of acquired characters", but no proof for this has ever been provided. Such a mechanism first became reality in Homo proteus, namely when the reproduction of additional organs shifted to language and writing.
The main argument against the often expressed assumption that "macromutations" were responsible for the relatively rapid progress of evolution and for the origin of new species was formulated by the English biologist Richard Dawkins: the equally banal yet convincing reason for rejecting all such theories is "that should a new species arise in this manner, then members of that species would have difficulty finding a mate". Reproduction in almost all higher animals is based on the prior union of the DNA strands of the male and female parent genomes; it is therefore truly difficult to image how macromutations, which would involve considerable changes in these long strands, could give rise to viable progeny. The union of such a "macromutated" genome with a normal one could never yield viable phenotypes (organisms). A prerequisite for successful reproduction would be the same macromutation in both a male and female gamete. Furthermore, precisely these two gametes – among the entire gene pool of the species - would have to encounter each other during copulation. The probability for this is so minimal that this mechanism can be immediately eliminated as a plausible explanation for evolutionary phenomena.
Dawkin's objection, which I wholeheartedly support, is in no way compromised by my thesis that shifts enable quantum leaps in capability. Rather than involving radical changes in physical structures (i.e. DNA strands), these involve major capability shifts to other, already existing physical structures.
I can well imagine that these transfers of function (my "shifts") do, in fact, represent a mechanism that significantly accelerates evolution and therefore basically correspond to what certain proponents of "saltatory evolution" have had in mind.
I will present additional examples of shifts in unicellular,
multicellular, as well as in the development of hypercell organisms; this
book will examine a few relevant examples in more detail. If my thesis
is correct, then evolution is truly characterized by major leaps forward.
These are then followed by periods of incremental improvements in which
the potential applications of the respective shift (as in the case of all
human inventions) are sounded out and implemented.
Obtaining goods by "two-fold exchange" and the origin of specialized types of hypercell organisms
A further opportunity for hypercell organisms to earn money was to sell "services" to others. This form of employment is much older still: it existed long before money was invented. Every symbiosis between plant and animal in effect involves one partner gaining the services of another by providing a service of its own. Numerous forms of exchanged services can be observed in social animals, for example in apes and monkeys, where one individual removes the lice from another individual, followed by a switch of roles. Long before money ever changed hands, laborers and servants in communities of hypercell organisms worked for others for room and board (a practice that continues to this day in many countries). The same no doubt also holds true for the "oldest trade in the world", prostitution. Subsequently, through the services sector, money also opened entirely new perspectives for all forms of energy gain. Nonetheless, I do not believe that the exchange of services itself led to the discovery of money for the simple reason that services, as opposed to products, can be arbitrarily subdivided.
While filming human behavior on Samoa with my mirror-lens, a European-born resident explained to me how Samoans conducted business. "If an islander wants to buy a new shirt, he first asks how much it costs, then inquires as to what type of work he could do in order to obtain this sum. He then completes this work, buys the shirt, and sets forth on his care-free life". In modern, industrialized society, work for pay has become routine, although quite a few people still adhere to principles similar to those of the Samoans. When outside services can be obtained by providing one's own services, then money becomes superfluous. The services can then be directly matched based on their value and duration. Agreements along the lines of "scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours" no doubt cropped up as soon as Homo proteus was able to communicate verbally. Such arrangements have lost none of their importance in either private life or modern business. I am devoting more time to this topic because the above scenario makes one thing clear: the complications involved in exchanging products no doubt gave rise to the selective pressure that inevitably led to the introduction of money. The remarkable fact here is that money (by buying services) enables much greater increases in capability than could be gained by producing additional organs.
Namely, anyone who acquires an additional organ has actually obtained only one element of the sought capability. The person who purchases a spear must then learn how to wield it. This requires creating the wiring in the brain that enables the owner to hit prey or enemies with the new instrument. If, on the other hand, this person hires a hunter or a warrior skilled in spear-throwing, then this additional effort becomes superfluous. Beyond merely providing the necessary tool, this strategy also ensures its professional operation. This holds true for any type of service purchased. For the duration of the contract, anyone with sufficient funds to hire the services of a doctor or lawyer supplements his/her capable entity with special skills that they themselves could never provide. The consequence of this is that by hiring services, a hypercell organism can gain virtually any type of special capability that others are willing to provide for money. While purchasing a tool or machines can improve the person's own capable entity, these units themselves must be properly applied to the task. Beyond this, they must be maintained in working order, protected against theft, and repaired or replaced as necessary. All these activities become largely or entirely superfluous when skilled services are enlisted. Engaging a doctor or lawyer automatically provides the patient or victim with the full range of experience gained by such highly specialized types of hypercell organisms.
This is an example of the indirect path that evolution can take to arrive at improved capability. Purchasing a product toward this end required money as a universal mediator. This mediator is most effective when used to hire services. The customer gains not only the means for the task at hand, but the entire capability relevant to that task.
Two main groups of people - those who sell products and those who sell services - are accompanied by a third profession, namely tradesmen. These hypercell organisms specialize in mediating between supply and demand. Theirs is a two-pronged effort: at one end, they locate the required goods, at the other end they help ensure that produced goods are sold.
From the functional perspective, this form of energy gain is presaged in the animal kingdom. One example is an African bird of the genus Indicator, commonly known as the honey guide. In a complex sequence of innate behaviors, it first determines the location of a bee hive; once a hive is spotted, it searches for a honey badger (Mellivora capensis) and attracts its attention with conspicuous movements and sounds. The badger understands the signal and follows the bird, which leads the way by flying ahead and repeatedly returning to the badger. Once at the hive, the badger tears it apart with its powerful forelegs and devours its contents. The bird receives a "commission" for its mediation, much like a trader or agent. In this case the reward is food: the badger is only interested in the honey and leaves the wax of the honeycomb untouched. The bird, however, can break this wax down for food with the help of symbionts living in its digestive tract. Without the badger, the bird would be unable to tap this source of food and energy, much as a trader can never hope to make a profit if markets are nonexistent. Curiously, honey guides have learned that humans are also interested in honey, just like the humans living here have learned to interpret the bird's signals. They also let the bird guide them to bee hives, which they then dismantle. The humans are only peripherally interested in the wax, leaving enough for the bird to get its reward.
As we all know, the animal and plant kingdoms have given rise to an incredible number of species: the insects alone encompass more than 1 million described species. Every one of these species is capable of utilizing a food resource and gaining energy as well as matter with which it builds up its own body structure and reproduces via offspring. This is no different in hypercell organisms. Those who produce required goods, who provide services, and who mediate the transactions - all have specialized in ever-new occupations, have conquered ever-new niches, and taken advantage of the ever new opportunities that life offers. In both cases, species have been displaced (and ultimately driven to extinction) by others who were better adapted and therefore more efficient. In both realms, strong competition developed between members of the same species, while members of other species were treated indifferently because no conflicts of interest arose. Both realms were characterized by the formation of interest groups and by a web of interdependencies. Although hypercell organs differ considerably from animals and plants in their external appearance and behavior, the manner in which they form new species is quite analogous.
The above-mentioned professions include a number of activities that enrich hypercell organisms by circumventing the rules and laws of the community. These can also be viewed as true occupations, even if they are illegal and disreputable. They allow a person's capable entity to acquire additional organs with only negligible loss of value, and these additional organs can also be made into money (the universal mediator) by selling them on the market. These features no doubt contributed significantly to promoting such illegal occupations. Thievery, extortion, drug dealing and fraud are often associated with considerable profits, although the risks are commensurately high. Larger groups collectively finance security forces to safeguard personal property, a development we will discuss at a later stage.
How does the hypercell organism’s method of gaining energy, which is so tightly bound to money, fit into the overall concept of evolution? Most plants, for example, rely on freely available sunlight as an energy source. The plant's structure enables it to use the energy of the sun's rays to convert inorganic matter into organic structures, namely into molecules whose configuration retains part of the energy extracted from the sunlight as bond forces. Plants therefore capture energy and put it to use. Most animals, on the other hand, gain the energy they need by consuming other organisms, whether they be plants or animals, and subsequently breaking down their molecules and utilizing the energy of the chemical bonds contained therein. Animals "steal" energy. The very same technique is in effect in the humans that form and control hypercell organisms. Humans operate even larger capable entities with muscle power, i.e. with energy gained from the food they consume. The next step - utilizing energy sources available in the environment, for example to power machines – will be discussed in a later chapter. Hypercell organisms are in fact characterized by an entirely different type of energy gain involving two-fold exchange.
The first exchange process involves earning money by selling products or services that others need. The second, which is typically much simpler, involves using this money to buy food and other necessary items. In this strategy, the major effort is shifted to the first transaction. The buyer, the customer, the target group, the market become the actual energy source. The fact that money can be used to purchase food and other fuels (coal, crude oil, electricity) from other individuals is only one side of the coin. More importantly, money can be used to transfer the specialized skills of other persons to one's own capable entity.
It should be stressed here that money is not a state of
energy, i.e. it cannot be directly converted into units of energy. Rather,
within organized communities, money represents a generally accepted proxy
for energy or for the result of energy expended by others. The value of
money, very much like that of any other goods, depends on supply and demand
(unless regulations within the communities hinder this). Nonetheless, the
act of earning money in hypercell organisms is ultimately directed at gaining
energy, whether it be energy incorporated in the body and its organs or
energy needed by others to produce necessary goods or to deliver specialized
Man and the hypercell organism
My theory has met with difficulty not for lack of convincing evidence, but rather because it forces us to fundamentally re-evaluate ourselves and our position in the flow of life.
The terms "man" and "hypercell organism" are by no means interchangeable. If a coal merchant goes bankrupt or if the demand for some other profession dries up, this in no way implies the death of the people involved. They continue to live, earn their money by other means, and one day form entirely new hypercell organisms. The demise of a business or profession may cause people to lose their jobs and their source of income, but they can subsequently give rise to an entirely new breed of hypercell organism. Some may take this as striking evidence supporting the belief that the sociocultural evolution of man is fundamentally different from biological evolution. I maintain, however, that this transition was a continuous process when viewed from the perspective of developing capabilities, regardless of how much external appearances and certain functional operations have changed.
At the core of every hypercell organism is a human being who has improved his/her own capable entity with additional organs. Everyone will agree that the decisive element in natural selection is not the naked human body, but rather the body along with the array of additional organs that help enhance its capability.
A number of animal species have already developed functional units that are separate from their bodies, units with which they clearly increase their selective value. The formation of such structures is extremely slow because it involves innate behavior that, in turn, relies on changes in the genetic makeup. Reproduction in these animal species is also bound to genetic mechanisms, which further limits their developmental potential. This situation suddenly changed upon the emergence of man, a long evolutionary process that is still evidenced in the vertebrates inhabiting our planet today. Specifically, this quantum leap occurred when man’s mental capacity increased to the point where our brains (our powers of imagination) enabled us to associate and combine cause and effect, even if these were temporally and spatially distant events. This organism was now in a position to form additional organs by learning and then to test and improve these organs. Such progress would have been of little avail to the organism had its transmission remained bound to genetic mechanisms: the advances would have inevitably been lost upon the death of the respective individual. With the advent of the human capacity for oral and written communication, individually acquired advances could be directly imparted to others. The fetters to coding in the genome were broken.
The new situation in many ways paralleled what we know about technological advances: a final small step led to immeasurable new opportunities. For the first time, evolution gave rise to an organism that was able to transmit individually acquired advances to conspecifics on a broad basis. Homo proteus became a specialist in versatile specialization; biologically, he can be regarded as a cosmopolitan species whose great adaptability makes him far superior to plants and animals. Much like his ancestors, this remarkable organism lived in small groups that battled each other for food and space and had thus already become higher-level organisms. Every improvement in their particular community was an advantage in natural selection. An additional advantage was that certain individuals specialized in producing extremely important additional extracorporal organs that were not permanently attached to the body. From this moment on, this cosmopolitan species radiated (in the traditional biological sense of the word) into a great number of individual species. Every working person who achieved success based on a special accomplishment inevitably led others to emulate him/her, thus becoming the founder of a new species.
The traditional species concept, which functioned so well for all uni- and multicellular organisms, is coupled to the gene pool. Since the reproduction of the vital additional organs shifted from the genome to language and writing, this species concept is no longer applicable to the larger capable entities (hypercell organisms) formed by man. Clearly, modern biologists will find it difficult to question or even reject the familiar, traditional classification. The fact remains, however, that the formation of organs which are not bound to the cellular body – a strategy first successfully employed by animals - ushered in a new era of organ genesis and evolution in man. Although humans influenced natural selection by changing their environment, this influence was no greater than that exerted by spontaneous environmental change. Anthropogenic activity merely supplemented and modified the selective factors, an ongoing process up to this day. Thus, selective factors continue to control and determine which products of human ingenuity are successful and which are not.
It should be abundantly clear that the decisive element here is not the human, cellular body, but rather the capable entity that man creates. Since we do not perceive the latter directly, we have difficulty accepting that the true self is represented not by our physical body, but by an amorphous unit defined by capabilities and forces. In my opinion, however, we should have no difficulty accepting this identity shift. After all, daily life demonstrates time and time again how much our successes or failures depend on units other than those that are formed of cells and attached to our bodies. The business world has long recognized the importance of immaterial values that rarely appear on balance sheets yet are often critical for success. Examples include: reputation, standing, customer satisfaction, well-established business connections, faith in the reliability of coworkers and suppliers, the commitment within one's own team, and the loyalty of the regular clientele. All the above are important elements that decisively influence the capable entity of individuals and of the larger units formed by many individuals.
Chapter 5 will deal in greater detail with those business enterprises formed by hypercell organisms in which humans become entirely exchangeable and replaceable units. These mainly involve major corporations, but also include predatory mega-organizations such as the Mafia. I will also show that certain forms of state fall under this definition.
The hypercell organisms formed by humans can enormously
boost their potential by acquiring new capabilities. We tend to shy away
from viewing the services rendered by others as integral parts of the capable
entities that are subject to natural selection. Our senses perceive the
two as entirely separate entities. Those who wish to follow my line of
thinking will have to put aside these prejudices. The view of life envisioned
by my theory differs considerably from the traditional one. Although it
may only minimally impact our daily routine, it could very well help us
to tackle certain barriers that seem insurmountable today.
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Continue to chapter 4 - "Organ formation and material components"