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  • Nelson Guedes

We Are a Superorganism

COVID-19 is teaching us we are an inseparable whole

Like us, corals are one example of a superorganism.

I've been having a lot of mixed feelings over this whole pandemic thing. Part of me is sad, a bit melancholic. It's the feeling of us being sick. Part of me is going like "I told you so", but who even noticed anything I've been saying all those years? Part of me is frustrated it is too late to do something to soften the consequences of this crisis. We should have done something years ago, but nobody else seems to have noticed how extremely fragile the social-economic infrastructure of the whole planet is. So long as everything seems to be running smoothly, nobody stops to look at the cracks slowly building in the structures that compose society. So I was left here, alone, pointing at them saying - "look, this doesn't look good. We need to do something about this. We are collapsing in slow motion!" But who's going to listen to the philosopher who looks like a 15 year old kid? Not many people, it turns out.

Enough said about my feelings, I may be frustrated over all this for some pretty valid reasons, but this is not about me, it's about all of us. It's time for people to realize that we are not merely individuals, we are a superorganism. Sure, we are like highly independent individual cells, but society as a whole, throughout the planet, forms an organism. We are inseparable. If you ever wanted proof of that (perhaps you thought I was crazy to say that earlier), just look at the effect this virus is having on all of us. This whole situation goes against the idea that we are all just individuals and that as individuals we can make whatever decisions we feel like without affecting others. The currently predominant hyperindividualistic view is exposed as flawed by this virus, which can only be effectively defeated if we recognize the nature of our union, our connection with one another as a superorganism. We are no less connected with one another as our cells are connected with each other. For this reason, a social-economic system that doesn't recognize those connections between people and see people as fully autonomous islands that don't affect one another, such a system can't handle this virus. Our bodies have an immune system and society, to a certain extent, has one too - the healthcare system. That is just one way in which the patterns that work within our bodies are extended towards the whole humankind. We are a planetary civilization now. ONE planetary civilization. It's time for us to grow up and start acting like one.

As a superorganism, we need to have a proper biological system, an extended biological system. That includes systems that gives us energy and distributes that energy, and systems that allow us to communicate properly, organizing and synchronizing our decisions and our actions. It includes many other systems, all of which serve specific functions, much like our bodies have organs that are part of systems that serve specific functions, allowing our organism to function properly, to survive and evolve. We need all this. We need to start building it now. Most importantly, it has to be structured properly. It is absurd that we still rely on highly centralized systems that are grossly inefficient and fragile to disruptions. We need distributed systems, like our DNA, which is shared by all our cells and all our cells have access to it. Our cells function in a partnership, no cell is more important than another, no cell gives orders to others, they are all interconnected through the DNA, which allows them to adapt and communicate via the nervous system. The nervous system itself is not centralized, we don't have only one brain, our "brain" is spread out across our bodies, our organs have smaller "brains" themselves. There is no centralized hierarchy in our bodies. Our bodies also have complex ecosystems, most of our cells in our bodies are not even our own, they are bacteria that live symbiotically with us. We should be having the same relationship with our external ecosystems, instead of destroying them. 

There are many lessons to be learnt from biology that we could use to create a resilient planetary human organism. I have already done a lot of work to translate them into a workable model for us, but there is still a lot of work to do ahead, to build this. I hope I will have a chance to put it together and give it a try.

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© 2015 by Nelson Guedes

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