Evolutionary perspective, cybernetics and aspects of human nature

Executive summary

Evolutionary cybernetics studies the origin and development ofpurposeful organization in nature, mind, society and technology. Onthe other hand, cybernetics and system sciences are two domains thatare used to study the form of organized complexity from differentcomponents assembled together. The aim of the paper is to demonstratehow these two arise and work various aspects of human nature asadaptations of agents that corporate and compete for their survivaland development in social groups. The aspects that are discussed arecapabilities, limitations and cognitive biases, intentionality,rationality, preferences and emotions, moral sentiments and ethics,consciousness, culture, art, religion and law.

Supposingthat the human nature can be isolated from the rest of life would belack of evolutionary accuracy. Humans are animals in terms of bodyand mind. This is so because there is a close association betweenhuman thinking, actions and intentions. Just as other animals havesurvival instincts, so do humans. As such, Darwin’s evolutionaryperspective has been used by scholars to explain the evolution ofhuman nature since the dawn of civilization. Additionally, today’sresearchers have used the same to demonstrate how the unique humannature paradigms are adaptations of agents that have cooperated andcompeted to their survival, hence making the humans way more superiorthan the rest of the animals.

Overthe past two decades, evolutionary biology research has been fusedwith evolutionary psychology to explain human nature. There has alsobeen an increase in literature that touches on the nature ofevolution and its influence on humanistic behaviors. This has led tocreation of new theories about the history of human nature, selectionat different stages and the possible future of human nature. However,the fundamental principles of Darwinism, such as natural selectionand survival for the fittest, are the basics of the emergingscholarly works on human nature. The model of human behavior is nowno longer limited to old basic instincts of human nature.

Justas the evolutionary perspective, cybernetics has evolved over time.It has undergone gradual development in terms of concept andpractice, and recently, has been used to explain human nature.Scholars agree that cybernetics, which is more like a human science,is on the verge of substituting natural evolution as the futuredeterminant of some aspects the human nature. This is because a lotof human capabilities have been imitated by use of cybernetics.Diseases, which were nature’s way of selection in the early ages,can now be controlled by biological technology. However, aspects ofselection such as survival for the fittest are universal both fromthe evolutionary perspective and cybernetics.

Evolutionary cybernetics is the study of the origin and developmentof purposeful organization in nature, mind, society, and technology.Cybernetics and system sciences are two domains that have been usedto study the form of organized complexity from different componentsthat are assembled in a non-repetitive manner. For this purpose,organization can be defined as a structure that has a function, or asystem of components, which are arranged in a way that fulfills aparticular pre-selected purpose. Additionally, Minsky explains howintelligence can arise from non-intelligence, and shows that one canbuild a mind from many little parts, which can be considered asmindless themselves (18). As such, he coins the term “society ofminds” to explain how minds are made up of smaller processes, whichare known as agents. Each of this work require doing simple things,which need no mind at all to repeat. When all these agents arejoined, the come together to form what can be considered as pure andnatural intelligence. This paper shows how evolutionary perspectiveand cybernetics arise, work various aspects of human nature asadaptations of agents that corporate, and compete for their survivaland development in social groups.

Evolutionand human nature

It is not accurate to suppose that the human nature can be isolatedfrom the rest of life. This is an evolutionary concept that hasalready proven hard for many people to comprehend. However, it islikely to come up with more critiques once the concept and basics arefully understood. According to Mayr, humans descended frommonkey-like creatures (43). It has taken millions of years for thehumans to develop their unique sense of nature, which describes howthey handle various capabilities such as organized speech,rationality, preference, morals and so on. This, however, accordingto Corning, is one hand of the message of the evolutionary theory(47). Humans are not only animals in terms of body, but also in termsof mind. This is because there are several likening between the humanmind and the animal mind. For instance, all animals have the instinctto survive. As such, the humans too develop natural instincts forsurvival.

Accordingto Corning, we have been convinced that the humans are the onlyintelligent life on earth (520). In this regards, scientists haveundertaken overwhelming and comprehensive efforts to search for otherintelligent life beyond the solar system, in distant galaxies.Additionally, many people have several ideas that the humans havebeen set apart from the rest of the creatures. This is despite thefacts that are unearthed thorough scientific process. However, whatmakes the human nature unique through the evolutionary perspective isthat they have consciousness that has enabled them to make tools,create and modify culture, art, and religion (Corning 23). Inaddition, they have high thinking capacities especially in terms offitting into the society and survival, have self-awareness throughcognitive reasoning and rationality, and learn to adopt differentkinds of views through intelligence and corporation amongstthemselves. The evolutionary perspective has helped to explain theshape that the human nature is taking as they struggle to fit in andsurvive, above the rest of the other animals.

Corningsays that “the human species is inimitable and progressivelyunique” (523). Nevertheless, it would not be prudent to consideronly the impact that technological advances of the past severaldecades have done without taking into account the very flesh andbrain that makes the human nature unique. Together andnotwithstanding the datum that the human intellect is very superiorto that of the rest of the animals, there are certain traits thatcannot be overlooked. The other creatures, such as the chimpanzees,have human-like characteristics of their own. Just like the humans,they struggle to be powerful over the others, enjoy pleasures such asplaying, want to feel secure, protected in their communities, andeven kill competitors over territorial issues. However, anevolutionary perspective explains the unique aspects of human nature.According to Diamond, the human species was an “elaborate evolutionof the chimpanzees” (12). The unique human nature paradigms areadaptations of agents that have cooperated and competed to theirsurvival, hence making the humans way more superior than the rest ofthe animals. It can be argued that the humans have the best culturalorganization among the rest of the animals, and the human socialstructure is the most complex of all the species that are known.

Darwingives a comprehensive explanation of the process of evolution(Diamond 54). However, if attempts are made to explain the humanbehavior as a mere product of this kind of evolution, there could besevere implications for morality as part of the human nature. This isbecause this would be a threat to living virtuous lives. The progressthat the humans have made over the years, since the advent ofcivilization, has helped them to steer away from any kinds ofrepulsive behavior. Humanity, and all that is built into this mostintelligent species has helped them to have self-control and form abehavior that helps them to live in an organized society. Perhapsthis is one of the outstanding separations between animalisticbehavior and the human nature (Diamond 45). Humans’ ancestorscategorically developed values that enabled them to differentiatewhat is wrong from what is right, even before religion was formed andintegrated into human nature. Despite the fact that evolutionadvocates for the survival of the fittest, some aspects of humannature such as consciousness and culture bar them from behaving likethe rest of the animals, who could kill at the least provocation.This supports the ideas that human morality must be a little olderthan religion and ethics. According to Diamond, it would bejustifiable to say that human morality is as old as humanity itself(68). In fact, it is human morality, the most fundamental forms ofhuman nature that divided the humans from the rest of the animalspecies.

Overthe past two decades or so, human nature has been explained byevolutionary psychology. Despite the views that have been forwardedby critiques of evolutionary psychology and human nature, it cannotbe disputed that the Darwinian theory of evolution has intellectualsubstance. In addition, the theory sheds light on the moral paradigmsof the human nature, provides basis for arguing out the view ofreligion and spiritualism in human being, and helps psychologists topredict the human social progress since the age of civilization(Zahavi 230). According to Mayr, the human understanding of evolutionand “human nature” continues to develop through strings of mutualinteraction (54). A while ago, there were efforts by scientists todevelop a whole lot new literature regarding the nature of evolutionand its influence on humanistic behaviors. This included entirely newtheories about life history, selection at different levels, selectionof good genes through sex and such. According to Mays, these areexamples of evolution in a Darwinian theory (55). They have alsoproven to contain a substance in the efforts to understand humannature, and backed up the whole idea of survival for the fittest.

Thework of scientists such as Darwin has helped the human race tounderstand human nature, and this has been growing exponentially overtime (Zahavi 108). Such research has been done on evolutionarypsychology and human evolutionary genetics. Additionally, this hashelped to explain the association between human nature and theprimate behavior. As such, the model of human behavior is no longerlimited to old basic instincts of the human nature, such as hungerand fear. These are preferences and emotions, which despite the factthat they helped the humans to develop in certain social groups, havebeen outdone by other aspects of the human nature. Others, such asmorality, art, religion, culture and self-consciousness have detailedthe human nature in a universal way (Zahavi 59). To complement tothis, there exist a myriad of other emerging theories that have ledscholars to acknowledge that the evolutionary perspective has a handin creating new aspects of human nature. Evolutionary perception hascorrespondingly helped in recognizing that other previouslyoverlooked aspects have played an enormous role in promoting progressin the theory of evolution.

Mayrspeaks about the Good Genes Sexual Selection Theory (123). Thissupports the evolutionary theory that animals, humans included,choose their partners based on their knowledge about their geneticpurity. Such theories have an evolutionary perspective that provesuseful in studying a variety of human behaviors. However, they lackclear survival payoff aspects of human nature such as art andculture. This is because there is no single form of art or culturethat can be said to be exceedingly superior to others. Human naturehas proven to be complicated over time, when such aspects areconsidered (Mayrs 130). Unless other factors such as genetics, whichcan be crucial in determining survival or extinction, others, such asart and culture, do not bear such heavyweight, at least going by thefundamentals of evolution. Such findings in evolution illustrate thatevolutionary theories provide a way to understanding the human naturein a series of steps.

Whileusing evolutionary theories to explain the human nature, it cannot gowithout speaking about some crucial developments in biology. Dawkinssays that RNA has every connection with human nature (23). RNA can beused to explain the unique behavioral suppleness of the human brain,which is important in explaining trends in human behavior. Dawkinsexplains how DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then copied intocell proteins, to come up with and determine the adaptive complexityof human life (21). It means that the DNA codes that producesequences for proteins are important in evolutionary changes. Thispresents a number of protein-coding genes, which are responsible fortens of thousands of human characters, which are part of the humanbehavior. In the present day biology, RNA and protein sequence haveguided the Human Genotypes. This is significant in studies abouthuman genetics and human nature (Dawkins 29). Additionally, it hasshown that these elements of human genes and evolution have a hand indetermining innate instincts and behaviors, and guided dynamicchanges in human nature functioning. As such, from the perspective ofevolution theory, the most consistent and admirable human traits havesurvived in the genes of the human species and have consequently beenpassed down on to coming generations.

Dawkins (32) asserts that the human nature, just as biological lifedoes, results from an ever continuing process of evolution. However,there are questions that arise from the subject, with scholarsstriving to find out whether the modern day evolutionary science hasan all-engulfing explanation of the human nature. Additionally, thereare efforts to ascertain whether evolution and human nature explainthe religious practices and moral commitments just as it does otherhuman traits such as posture and thinking. This satisfies the notionthat evolutionary science has a lot more to do in efforts to explainthe human characters.

Aspectsof human nature such as religious beliefs and moral behaviors areproducts of human interaction in the social context (Dennett 34). Itcan also be argued that these aspects of human nature are notproperties of the individual will. This, therefore, satisfies thatthese aspects are adaptations of agents that compete for survival anddevelopment in social groups. The most admirable traits, such asupright moral commitments, naturally find their way into beingadapted to the society, unlike those that can be considered asimmoral. According to Dennett, social behavior is a development ofindividual experience with the rest of the members of a community inthe society (54). These traits form as individuals interact overages.There are those traits that developed amongst the human communitywith the advent of civilization, which did not find their way intothe modern society.

Mesquitaasserts that “social behavior is not so easy to understand”(230). This transpires because the interface that takes place duringdevelopment is met with a number of challenges and conditions thatmay not favor the development of a particular social trait. Forinstance, in the world of religion, not all human beings believe inthe existence of a supreme being. The Supreme Being, being God, isthe center of all religion. Religion is part of the contemporaryhuman nature. Therefore, Mesquita says that it is quite difficult tounderstand why not all humans have religious believes (154).Regardless, even those that do not believe in religion and thus lackthe necessary ethics of religion, still do exhibit just about allother forms of human nature, such as morality and consciousness. Itis therefore up to the fundamentals of evolution theory to explainwhy there are different tastes for human nature traits.

Mesquitasays that from an evolutionary perspective, human beings canunderstand the complexities of adaptation to individual human traits(178). For instance, athletics is taken into consideration. There arethose individuals who are born into a family of skilled athletes.These traits are not formed during social interaction, but prior toit. However, athletics is a trait that can be enhanced, througheither biological technology intervention or just hard training.Through doing this, the unwanted features of the human body thatsuppress athletics, such as much body fats and fragile bones, undergoforceful “evolution” to promote athletics. The competitivebalance between a non-athletic body and an athletic body is canceledwith a progressive evolution until the initially un-athleticindividuals become as equally competitive as the athletic ones. Thisis a rather compressed form of evolution, which however still playswith the fundamentals of Darwinian selection (Mesquita 144). Ingeneral, biological technology has a hand in the outcome of socialinteraction, despite the fact that the result itself is not aninfluence of such interactions.

Dennettsays that evolution has its surprises (24). Yet still, there arecertain boundaries of evolution that are yet to be explained, aspertains to human nature and behavior. This raises the argument as towhether evolution can explain all human traits. However, it all boilsdown to how evolution psychologists and modern biologists definehuman nature. According to Dennett, human nature can be thought to bea collection of feelings and thoughts, which determine the way inwhich the humans behave and interact amongst themselves (67). Forinstance, language is part of the human nature. Humans developcommunication skills from the time they are born, and throughouttheir growing years, get to develop even more complex aspects ofhuman language. By the time someone is born, he or she can only makesubtle sounds that merely imitate what he or she can hear. However,as they age, they get to learn and understand the basics of thelanguage, to develop their skills, attributed to the results ofsocial interaction. The growing human being develops a languagefaculty in environments of speakers (Dennett 70). All these thoughts,which are expressed in ideas and actions, are part of the humannature. As the language skills develop, other related aspects ofsocial communication, such as art and entertainment factor in thesocial development. These form what is known as the human culture.Music, film, dance, and singing, all somehow related to the evolutionof human language.

Axelrod(67) speaks about the role of cooperation throughout stages ofcivilization into becoming a fundamental force of evolution.Cooperation is needed for the purpose of social construction. Thereis involvement of the corporation as the phases of evolution progressthrough ages. Through corporation, “ideas are collected, practicesenacted and, in the long run, the human nature of societal living andcommon culture are brought into life” (Wilson 12). In a cellularbiological level, the emergence of multicellular organisms isattributed to the corporation between cells. Many aspects of thehuman nature would not have materialized it not for evolution of thecorporation.

Accordingto Minsky (76), there is a steep challenge in understanding thefundamental concepts of evolution, especially when it comes tocharacterizing it. This is because evolution is a search process,just as it shows in human nature progression. Humans have thetendency of searching for short-term solutions to problems, such asadapting to new physical environments and personal traits. This iswhy some aspects of human nature, such as art and culture, continueundergoing evolution from the time they were first conceptualized.Modern culture is different from the ancient culture. The humansgenes continue searching for the most appropriate traits tocharacterize the human nature of a certain age, and this keeps goingon and on through the centuries (Minsky 65). However, it isworthwhile to note that the search has to take place within a limitedspace. This is why evolution determines what characteristics of humannature can survive certain periods. For instance, there are certaintraits of intelligence that can emerge from mutations of the humangenes, however, constructing and incorporating it into the societybecomes an impossibility. As such, these kinds of intelligence are“naturally filtered out and may go without being noticed in thelarger population” (Thurstone 78). That is why it is understoodthat for nature to explain intelligence fully in human nature, notonly a theory of evolution dynamics is needed, but also fullcomprehension of the fundamental laws of human nature evolution.

Evolutionary theorists have expounded human consciousness (Minsky43). As such, there is no need for the scholars to limit themselvesto understanding the human nature by scientific methods. This is thereason evolutionary theorists like Darwin demonstrated that viewingthings from an evolutionary perspective is not only valuable instudying the human nature, but also important in generating viewsabout its future. Therefore, it is justifiable to say that naturalsciences may give an all-round analysis of the human nature and humanexistence, but may fail to provide answers to the questions about thefundamentals of human nature (Minsky 57). For instance, in light ofthe human nature of religion, the fundamental aspect of human natureand relationship to God and anticipation for everlasting salvation isnot a product of the Darwinian evolution theory. This rather buildsup from social interaction and corporation, as discussed above, tocreate a culture whose moral beliefs and ethics are the buildingunits of certain aspects of human nature, such as religion.

About200 years down the line, since the first concepts of evolution wereused to describe human nature, there is an almost completeunderstanding of the same. Emotions are universal, regardless of theorigin of an individual (Minsky 12). Additionally, the kinds of hopesand fears that are experienced by people are the same, just as thealterations of perception and cognition. It was quite obvious that asthe Darwinian theory of evolution was being published there would bea basis for scientists to develop an explanation of how naturalselection influenced the human behavior. However, there are certainsmall differences in how genes and evolution influence variousparadigms of human nature. Minsky says “some personal traits, suchas sexuality and hunger do not need much evolution to be part of thepool of human characteristics” (22). Additionally, it is no brainerin explaining how humans have evolved over the ages to being sociallycompetitive. For instance, a high social status in the communitypaves the way for access to soul mates. As such, there is anevolution of genes that drive the pursuit of a high social status. Toadd to this, human appetites and drives, together with tendencies ofemotions have shaped cognition and behavior. These have been used inthe explanation of natural selection, as presented through theevolutionary perspective.

Lessonsfrom cybernetics

Corning defines cybernetics as a multi-disciplinary field thatprovides help to those who have lost the ability to move their bodies(361). In the contemporary world of research, there have beenattempts by scientists to design fully functioning organisms in onething. However, the main challenge is that coming up with a designthat performs its intended function, and successfully installing itin the body, is an accomplishment with multiple ethical andscientific dilemmas. Often, in cybernetics, “the problem isregaining a functionality, which had been there in the first place,and not creating an entirely new feature” (Sayre 25). However,natural selection does much better than engineers in cybernetics do.Natural selection is often coupled with mutations, which cansuccessfully optimize an organism for its respective environment(Corning 72). Any organism, which has the most suitable traits bestfitted for its environment, can survive and reproduce. Organisms thatlack certain functionality automatically lack the ability to survive,and are therefore naturally wiped out.

Fromthe evolutionary perspective, natural selection, which is acting onindividual mutations, can adapt the organism to environmental needs(Corning 72). However, this is only to the extent to which theorganism in question reaches its limits. Just as it happens incybernetics, developing entirely new components of survival wouldneed incredible planning and time to pass-by barriers in integratingthe component into a functional system. This also goes for theDarwinian mechanism (Corning 125). All these components have tointegrate into the already existing mechanism to enable the organismto have some kind of survival advantage at each step of evolution. Ifnot so, there would be no justification for expectations that the newcomponents would be preserved into the coming generation of thespecies. A number of aspects of human nature as adaptations of agentsthat corporate and compete for their survival and development insocial groups are discussed with reference to evolution andcybernetics.

Naturalselection and technological evolution

From the commencement of time, man has unceasingly been constantlyevolving. This evolution has taken both technological, biological andeconomical directions. However, there are certain limits to which thehuman race can evolve at a time (Smith and Szathmary 45). When thereis the concentration in technological evolution, less naturalselection takes place concurrently. The same can be said for thereverse. For instance, several decades ago, when immunization was yetto be discovered and used, disease was the way for natural selection.However, at the present age, with technological cybernetics on theverge of taking over, it is contemplated that natural selection isabout to be forsaken in favor of a human-directed evolution (Smithand Szathmary 33). This is achieved through technology and certaineconomies of scale. Those with the ability to afford the best thatcan be given by modern cybernetics would naturally be winners in thesurvival war.

Cyberneticshas had a gradual but yet far-destined journey in the history ofhumanity. Smith and Szathamary say that the beginnings were quitesimple (24). This has however developed into a complex evolution thatshapes the human culture and life. At first, cybernetics was limitedto simple body decorations, such as tattoos. It was thus focused onculture and art. The people wanted to enhance their appearance oridentify themselves as members of a certain society. Thisadditionally implies that the element of survival within a particularcommunity still highlighted the practice. However, over time, withtechnological evolutions in biology and other natural sciences, humansciences have been incorporated shaping other aspects of humannature, such as consciousness, moral ethics and sentiments (Corning379). Over time, some cultures began to tinker with their body forms.Such was the use of metal rings to extend the neck, for cultural andgroup identification. Other early cybernetic prosthesis were simplesticks to aid in movement. With the invention of civilization bylater generations, cybernetics extended drastically. Human technologythen began evolving at a pace that has never slowed down since.

Thisis what led to medical technology, which has been integrated withevolution (Lane 153). All the enhancements in human sciences havegradually begun to hinder the process of natural selection. Humanabilities such as speech and intentionality have now been able to becontrolled by cybernetics. Even the former modes of natural selectionhave been outdone by modern human sciences, such as technologicalbiology and advanced cybernetics. In the past, an entire populationcould be wiped by an outbreak of a plague. However, in the modernworld, humans can be immunized against such diseases, even preventingthe outbreaks from taking place (Lane 16). However, would it havegone the natural selection way, only the humans with the correctgenetic makeup and immunity systems would develop resistance to theplagues, and pass the immunity down to their children? Additionally,cybernetics has influenced the way that various aspects of humannature can adapt to the competition for survival and development insocial groups. Going with the example of immunization, its discoveryhas marked the largest migration from natural selection technologicalevolution (Lane 33). The benefactors of modern technology andcybernetics embrace them more than before.

Impactof cybernetics

Cybernetics has transformed how the human aspects of nature areperceived these days. Almost every human capability has beenimitated, creating what Ridley terms as cyborgs (122). A cyborg isdefined as a person who has capabilities that are beyond normal humanlimitations, or, an external agency that modifies the normal humanbody’s working. Therefore, a cyborg is an integrated man-machinesystem. Despite the fact that people nowadays understand the basicsof cybernetics, coming to realize the potential of cybernetics mighttake several more years (Ridley 100). Years ago, when the firstartificial heart transplant was completed, the entire face ofmedicine was transformed. Humans came to believe that it was possibleto integrate humans and machines into one thing. It is after thisbreakthrough there was research on a number of many other organs,such as the liver and lungs. This was a beneficial step for generalmedicine and cybernetics, which have revolutionized human survival(Ridley 103).

Sharon argues that cybernetics “is committed to preserving ratherthan subverting humanist values such as autonomy and individuality”(48). As such, while using cybernetics to understand and influencehuman nature, there has been an effort to contain it within a circleof liberal humanist assumptions. There are new ways that have beenformulated to equate humans and machines as an attempt not to disruptthe fundamentals of humanist behavior. Despite the fact thatcybernetics is emerging to be a powerful tool in shaping the futureof some aspects of human nature, other aspects remain constant andcontrolled only by natural evolution (Sharon 54). For instance,cybernetics cannot be used to alter the aspects of religion, as someagents of this human nature are controlled by evolution and creationtheories. However, others such as language and art, can be controlledand directed by cybernetics.


From an evolutionary theory perspective, the content of the paperhelps to understand the biological notions of human nature. This isin terms of the central tendencies, characteristics, and behaviors,rather than inevitabilities. Arguments provided not only supportvarious literature from scholars and evolutionary thinkers, but alsoprovide counter-arguments and rebuttals about the same. However, itmutually agrees that the evolutionary perspective helps to explainthe various aspects of human nature. Conceivably the simplest way ofcharacterizing evolutionary cybernetics from other related approachesin biological technology is by its prospective for inter andtransdisciplinary unification.

Cybernetics has an extensive conceptual framework, backed by uniqueprinciples, which enables it to address the underlying issues in thestudy of human nature, organization of the human society and its rolein biotechnology. Cybernetics has thus provided the basis foranswering world-view questions such as the nature of human living,origin, and future. These are the principle in providing answersabout the meaning of human life. At the same time, cybernetics hasproven to be a powerful tool in explaining the fundamentals of humannature, and has been used by technological biologists to study thesame. However, cybernetics, unlike the evolutionary perspective,raises ethical questions.

Thedistinct human capacity for institution building and evolution ofaspects of human nature are interrelated. While the evolutionarytheory tends to explain that the ancestors used their capacities tolearn from one another and transmit the knowledge down to the cominggenerations, cybernetics is a more modern form of human evolution.Secondly, the main difference between the two is that evolution isnatural and may not be controlled by man, while cybernetics is aninvention of human sciences, which can effectively be altered.However, the greatest similarity between the two is that they areboth forces that influence all aspects of human nature. Additionally,research and literature ion biological evolution shows that theaspects of human nature are adaptations of agents that cooperate andcompete to their survival and development in social groups.

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