What is your conceptual continuity? I think I picked up that line in college. It's hard to say its relevant meaning, but maybe it is relevant here. This essay is a discussion about how people think, on a few levels. It covers a number of examples of how humans think and what they think. All the examples are supposed to be a brief because the point is to introduce a new idea.
Humans think in Darwinian terms. The world works in Darwinian fashion. C. Darwin's cousin coined the term "survival of the fittest". In any advanced biology class, this ends up being discussed and it is clearly problematic, because it's impossible to say what "fittest" means other than a survivor in evolutionary terms. They might not seem fit, but might be good looking or just lucky. If they survive, they are defined as fit. So, it is explained that the term could be "survival of the survivors". Looking at it that way, you can see a more general principle that applies far more broadly. Those principles, perhaps with different hereditary materials, apply to engineered products, institutions, social systems, economic systems, political systems, etc. Life is about survival. Natural selection is the driver of Darwinian systems. I've carefully described why natural selection is not going to work for humans and why we need to use a human directed system of genetic selection. It should also work far better than the blunt, mindless, limited numbers game that is natural selection of Darwinian Systems. Can we continue to think in Darwinian terms? Can we move forward using Darwinian systems such as Social Darwinism? Again, no, natural selection and Darwinian process are not going to go away and that is a good thing, but certainly with genetics, we need to add a layer over them of human direction. Is that the case with other systems? There are a number or reasons too think so.
David Brin made a great statement about memes in his book "Otherness". He said that there seemed to be five memes that reflected political and social character. They were Feudalism, Conformity, Machismo, Paranoia and Otherness. Memes were a somewhat new topic to me when I read first that and I thought it was excellent. His description of the first four seemed so familiar. Some societies seem to strive most for conformity. Some seem to reflect paranoia or machismo. You can easily understand his meaning. He said that feudalism seemed to be a nuisance that regularly cropped up. Well, feudalism is a simple, rather natural, even Darwinian organizational system and it seems that the other memes could occur in feudal societies. Otherness was his real main topic though. He said it was the habit of curiosity about others and what they might have to offer that was new or valuable.
The point of that consideration of those memes is to give an example of how people think in the large, though they are also some interesting ways of looking at the world that does make sense.
This discussion is about very high level thoughts, appropriately called "visions" here. There are a few other factors that should be kept in mind when considering any of these.
2. Lack of precedence.
3. Arrogance and hubris of leadership
Religion is a problem. It is almost impossible to know how any humans at any time thought of Gods but they did think of them quite a lot. About one third to the Maxims on the wall of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi related to Gods. How much of that was from hope, how much from respect, how much from fear? How much was simple good strategic advice phrased in terms of a relationship between humans and Gods? Then there is that other moral issue... So any time you are trying to understand another person's thoughts, their visions, you need to factor in what they were thinking about their Gods at the time. Visions are very different for a person like Albert Einstein whose visions didn't include much about religon versus someone from an earlier time, perhaps Leonardo Di Venci
The human mind is a neural net. It is a pattern recognition mechanism, but it can also generate patterns. It is very like vision, except not as specialized. Still, sometimes it clearly sees details and sometimes it only sees outlines. The first thing your eyes recognize is the outline, then the parts, then the location of the parts. You can then zero in on details, but the first thing you have to see is the outline of the vision. When the neural bet of the mind recognizes something, it is the outline of an understanding that is perceived first, then perhaps details can be filled in. What human intelligence at its highest capability produces is visions, starting as an outline and filled in as clarity of understanding emerges. Michael Polanyi spoke of this, that first a coherent idea must emerge, then the details can be fleshed out like windows and walls added to the frame of a building. Then lights, gutters, hardware, and decorations can be added to that frame, but first you must recognize the outline. A question here is what outlines have humans seen. This is how we can reach a common understanding of the unknown and those visions what we must see if we are to see a future for humanity. Luckily, these visions can be communicated. It doesn't even take genius to see many of them, though perhaps for the most difficult. The thing is that there are only so many different visions of humanity and many people have had the same visions in different ways. This chapter is to describe some human visions, partly as data, but also to to describe the importance of visions to human understanding. The end of this chapter is to describe a common enough vision, that I think will be of the future.
I've had a dream a few times. A few of us, at a rocky shore of a remote cove under threatening gray skies. Heavy waves were rolling over the shoreline rocks. It looked so lovely, challenging and inviting. When I was younger, I loved hunting underwater on the California North Coast. It's not for everyone, but I've apparently got some strong hunting instincts from my ancestors. It was my passion and in the dream I would ride the swirling waters between the rocks on vital reefs solidly covered with familiar animals and seaweeds. I loved the beauty, vitality, harshness and challenge. I would see gigantic abalone and huge fish peering out of dark cracks between the rocks.
Göbekli Tepe in Turkey is an archaeological site where the earliest human monuments known were created as much as 10,000 years or more ago. It is believed to have been created by hunter-gatherer groups. Their instincts would have been about hunting. I read a description of what the surrounding ecology would have looked like then. Dropping away to the horizon were rolling tree and grasslands filled with life. Hunting would have been rich. I bet the peoples that went there looked down and had the same visions I had from underwater. Visions of a vital land thick with life where a hunters dreams took them.
Those are simple visions from a time we might be more adapted to, but the important question is about the visions that followed as humanity built civilizations and made progress. What visions did the warrior kings of the Bronze Age have? Perhaps more importantly what were the visions of the priests of Sumeria because they were from a time before the wars that are so much of human history. We have heard a great deal about religious visions, though I think it can sometimes be hard to know their real meanings from the decorations on them and the institutions that preserved them. What about the visions of thinkers like Leonardo, Albert Einstein, Michael Polanyi
The main problem humanity has been trying to work out in the past 10,000 years is how different peoples can make a large complicated society that can function. A lot of times that has been about making some kind of order. Often that has been by murder, sometimes called war, sometimes not but with the same result. That though is a tribal behavior and since the time of Alexander The Great we've been trying to work out how to make multi-cultural societies that worked together. That makes sense because war is just too destructive. Humans tend to thrive during order and don't do well without it. especially in economic terms. Groups that could not make peace tended to vanish.
The objective here is to systematically and briefly describe some of the visions of the future that humanity has had so they can be evaluated. In a way, this is like describing the civil classes of human society. It is to lay out the playing field as we know it or as it has been speculated. Some of it can be amazingly thoughtful. The trick is to make this useful by creating a summary of a huge amount of speculative fiction while leaving out what is of no use. Luckily, most of it can be left out,
A common class of speculation would be about different versions of a classed society, such as in Plato's Republic with three classes - guardians, who are philosophers that govern the city; the auxiliaries are soldiers who defend it; and the lowest class comprises the producers (farmers, artisans, etc). Descriptions of classed societies with occupational specializations are common perhaps because that is basically how all civil societies have been since the first cities. Note that in Babylon 5, the advanced race of the Membari were basically described with the exact same class structure Plato described. A fascinating and complex story of another class society was the Childe Cycle by Gordon Dickson described a slightly different class structure of a future of human society divided between Philosophers, Warriors and Faith-Holders. The problem with that...
Compare a classed society to the television show Star Trek which described a number of possible societies that were shown as completely of one class. There were the logical, emotionless Vulcans, the military Klingon Society, the passionate Romulans, the mercantile Ferengi as well as others. These archetypes may nicely illustrate human characteristics, but the problem with that
In nearly 30 books, depending on exactly how you read them, Isaac Asimov wrote an amazing consideration about humans and robots, that is, intelligent machines. Perhaps the most interesting of the stories in terms of human possibilities using advanced technology were the "Caves of Steel" where humans lived at high density apart from any natural environment and robots were not allowed at all. That was in contrast to "The Naked Sun" where humans were few, living with unspoiled nature and robots did everything. Unfortunately, though a very interesting discussion about humans and machines, he offered little discussion about human organizational methods other than to say you would need to assemble a science of psycho-history to figure it out. Is this book psycho-history?
For our consideration here, an interesting book comes from Robert Heinlein, another brilliant thinker about the future. Notice one thing about Plato's Republic and the books of the same genre. They all described a caste society, which is sort of to be expected and they were all led by philosophers of some sort, whether called philosophers, priests, or philosopher kings. What we have seen in the reality of history though is that the military was dominant. You could argue that the Western International Ruling Class was warrior/priest/scribe hybrids, but in any case, they were military. No one considered democracy, a concept that was very unusual during most of human history. In Heinlein's book Starship Troopers (not the movie) there were basically two classes, citizens who were mostly from the military and the rest that Plato would have called Producers. Whether original to him or not, that is a very novel idea compared to what we get from history. Also, in a sense it was novel in that it transcended most concepts of society that had tribal component and had a more nationalist component - that is loyalty to the state. I think Mr. Marx described that in political terms though I'm sure the idea of the commune is older, perhaps going back at least to early Christianity.