Telescopic Evolution

The evolution of mankind is a process that is steadily accelerating. This is not just an argument presented in Waking Life; while the reasons remain a hotly debated mystery, many scientists now believe that the evolutionary process itself has evolved and occurs at a more rapid pace than life has ever known. The film uses the biological evolution of mankind, from squishy invertebrates to mammals to conscious organisms, as its initial evidence for this stance. Social and technological evolutions- agriculture, industrialism, and scientific development- provide further evidence to support its telescopical theory. Linklater argues that this acceleration has traditionally been exclusive to the population on a holistic level, rather than focusing on the individual. This would explain our natural competitiveness, our drive to dominate one another, the development of capitalism, and other such behavior manifested from the predisposed support of surviving to propagate. Indeed the biological development of our species, while effecting the anatomy of the single organism, has been a direct result from the development of populations- the natural selection of the dominant traits within a population- and has thus taken place to benefit the species primarily and the individual secondarily.

So what is causing this acceleration in the evolutionary process? Biology, culture, and technology are fueling each other’s development! We make a progression in one of these facets, and it provides new opportunity in the other two. Those oppurtunities lead to further progression in the other two facets.

Example: Farming and Agriculture (technological) -->

the development of cities/groups of people living together, and genetic changes brought on by new diets and eating habits (Dunham) CULTURAL, BIOLOGICAL

Cities and close populations presented a problem with disease, which lead to cleaner habits, hygiene, and etiquette (CULTURE) and the development of medicine (TECHNOLOGICAL), and medicine has forever changed our society and genetic makeup.

Will Dunham's article on Thomson Reuters’ website reports similar ideas to the increasing speed of evolution. Dunham writes, “people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago.” Complimentary to the points in Waking Life, Dunham notes that significant evolutionary accomplishments are notably associated with scientific and cultural achievements.

The new evolution for Linklater will stem from a symbiotic coexistence between digital and analog information, blended for the first time by neurobiology. I’ve listened to this over and over and it still remains unclear. So I am setting out on a journey through the internet to find some answers. (QUESTION #1) What does this mean?

According to the PC guide, search CIO-midmarket on analog, and search CIO-midmarket on digital:

ANALOG INFORMATION is “information that is continuous, that is, any piece of information that can take on any of an infinite set of values.” Analog information was our traditional source for relaying phone, radio, and television signals and is basically a series of ever-changing waves being streamed into a receiver.
DIGITAL INFORMATION is “restricted” to the exchange of binary information. An infinite number of possibilities exist in the pattern of 1’s and 0’s that represent information and are transferred into digital devices, like computers, digital phones, and digital cameras. Digital communication has quickly replaced most analog sources, even though it is less accurate than its predecessor. This is because digital information is more reliable, clear, and easy to store and copy.

According to The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary:
NEUROBIOLOGY is “the biological study of the nervous system.”

(QUESTION #2) What does neurobiology have to do with analog and digital information?
Humans obviously take in analog information, not digital information; we see continuous waves of light and hear continuous waves of sound, rather than perceiving our surroundings in binary 1’s and 0’s. Is Linklater trying to say we are going to evolve into organisms capable of processing digital information? Sounds like "The Matrix" doesn't it?

Back to the video: Linklater referred to digital information as “artificial intelligence” and analog information as “molecular biology” and “cloning of the organism.”

Molecular biology has a central focus on DNA, RNA, genetics, etc. (analog communication) and is the driving force behind cloning.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hey Casey,
I wanted to comment on your thoughts re:question number two concerning human analog. I would have to be honest and tell you that I have never thought about this subject prior to your piece, but on the fly I think I will agree humans receive info thru analogue "waves". However, it might be a little cool to see how human react to the binary 1's and 0's. I'm not so much fan of the Matrix so I have great hopes that our world won't convert.

Casey said...


That portion of the video was one that I struggled with for a while. I'm not too sure about the direction that Linklater believes human evolution will take in the future, but this has to be my favorite part of Waking Life. I find it so inspiring to think that the competitive nature of human existence will be subject to devolution in generations to come. If people started to work together to create a better existence, imagine the progress our species could make in culture, technology, etc.!

Analog information is natural. The rays of the sun can be perceived as analog. Rainbows are nothing more than refracted waves of light that enter the lenses of our eyes and play off our retinas like a radio plays the waves of different stations. The echo of sound in an empty room is analog. The waves of electricity coursing through your body to make your heart beat as you read this and fingers type to respond are both analog too.

Digital information isn't natural, but then again neither was complex language at the dawn of humankind. Our brains have evolved to be more susceptible to language, why couldn't this happen for understanding digital information? Furthermore, with the increased speed of evolution, the bio-digital evolution could happen even faster than anyone expected.

I'm not even sure I buy it, it sounds really science fiction-ish to me. This is how I interpreted this piece, what I think Linklater sees for our next evolutionary leap. I really like this one!!!

buddhabecoming said...

I'd like to comment on the first part of this video, the part about how the spans of time between crests in evolution are getting shorter. Specifically, the narrator says how we should be able to see radical evolution in the span of a lifetime or even a generation.

It makes me reflect on the recent election of Barack Obama to the US Presidency. It took over 100 years before the first civil rights legislation had any bite at all. It was introduced after the Civil War and had no real power until the late 60's. And now in less than half that time we've got a minority preparing to run the country.

It's just one very bright example of how far we come and how quickly. We are definitely picking up the pace.