A Sustainable Point of View


A Theory Of Sustainable Meaning & Cultural Evolution

Human beings are not islands. We are connected to one another and our world in a biopsychosocial interaction that can be more or less sustainable. This interaction involves four ways our mind and brain relate to the world, and four social dynamics that are produced as a result. The implication is that we are biologically interconnected into complex adaptive systems: social enterprises as small as families and as big as global economies, whose fates are tied to our own.

Complex adaptive systems are modelled in our brain, where information about our fortunes in the social landscape shape how we feel biochemically. This conduit is bi-directional: it allows us to shape our world purposefully, and for our world to shape us biopsychospiritually. I argue that this bidirectional influence between our mind, brain and environment is a kind of evolutionary meaning. I theorize that this evolved to drive cultural evolution. These ideas are used in the service of sustainable meaning: A) the theory and practice of individual wellness, and B) a new paradigm for social and political progress.

A subset of this theory is devoted to neurodiversity, the idea that we have biological predispositions to particular styles of meaning-making, and this invisible social order helps to explain the evolution of diversity, politics, ideology, purpose, and mental health. Neurodiversity helps to extend our theory of individual wellness to the social and political level by seeing how our diverse strategies of meaning-making contribute to a larger whole. This allows us to apply the theory across our varying social landscape, to translate between ideological communication barriers, and to strategize toward our own unique role in the future.

I’ve provided links below to the substance of this evolving theory.

PROLOGUE: The Evolution of Meaning: A Manifesto

I. Evolutionary Meaning

a. Feedback Loops of Meaning

b. The Mind-Body-World Connection

c. Something Bigger Than Ourselves

II. Neurodiversity

a. We Are All Individuals: The Limits Of A Worldview

b. The Unknown Story of Evolutionary Neurodiversity: A Tale Of Two Temperaments

c. A Functioning Cog In Some Great Machinery: Evolutionary Purpose & Mental Health

d. Neurodiversity & Ideology: Politics In The Hive Mind

III. Cultural Evolution 

a. The Evolution of Evolution: A Paradigm Shift




  • biostructure (n): an umbrella term for one of the four social structures self-organized by evolutionary meaning. Each biostructure sums with the others to form a biosystem; an evolving complex adaptive system; a superorganism (see: biosystem; complex adaptive system; superorganism).
    • social network (n): the object of study in network science; a population of agents that form a web of dyadic relationships (of friendship, co-workers, romance and family) to create a macro social structure with its own properties; the structure of “horizontal” links between agents that form pathways of communication, cooperation and information and facilitate the spread of contagions (such as emotions, eating disorders, altruism, suicide, innovations, hostility, etc.) up to three degrees of separation out of the maximum of six degrees; self-organized from interpersonal “win-win” connections and the mirror neuron/oxytocin substrates that support them.Network 01A
    • social hierarchy (n): often studied as “dominance hierarchies” in apes and power structures in sociology; a population of agents who self-organize according to status determined by the outcomes of games for status; the structure of “vertical” links between agents down which control is exerted; can be based on “dominance” (the exertion of control over subordinates) or “eminence” (the deferrence of power to effective leaders); a form of “social organization” that functionally serves to coordinate social groups toward shared goals; self-organized from “win-lose” competitions and the mirror neuron/testosterone substrates that support them.Hierarchy 01A
    • social friction/rules (n): studied in sub-fields of systems theory as a property of networks and complex systems, and as a measure of evolutionary group fitness where friction impairs group functioning and leaves it vulnerable to more harmonious competitors; social friction is an aggregate of disruptive and escalating hostility between individuals, groups or subgroups, often caused by competing agendas or by one or both breaking a social contract of Golden Rule fairness; social rules mitigate the rise of social friction by resolving conflict under threat of tit-for-tat punishment, or by guiding agents down channels of greater coordination, cooperation, communication and power-sharing to prevent friction, often by hierarchical “managers;” self-organized from escalating “lose-lose” hostility and the mirror neuron/serotonin substrates that support them.Morality 01A
    • social vision (n): studied in cybernetics; a goal-directed representation held in a common cultural medium, often an ideology, by a system of agents to “steer” action toward the shared, imagined outcome; a social or cultural analog to the idealized goal-states created by representational brains to guide agency, in this case as applied to a network of cooperating actors to guide their cooperative action; the paradigm that results from a common system of goals and dreams which evolved as one part problem-solving framework, one part motivating reward system of beliefs, values and ideals; self-organized from the goal-directedness of agents and the dopamine substrates that support it.Goals 01A
  • biosystem (n): what is sometimes called a complex adaptive system or superorganism, a biosystem specifically refers to the hypothesis that these emergent systems are self-organized from biostructures (see: complex adaptive system, superorganism). 
  • chemical feedback mechanism (n): the hypothesized mechanism of evolutionary meaning; the function of some neurotransmitters to be self-influencing by through feedback loops; A mechanism wherein neurotransmitters shape thought and behavior to act on the world, and then use information about the consequence of that action to modify future action in an ongoing loop.Goals - Feedback Loop 02F
    • drive (n): a need for the neurochemical activity produced by particular kinds of evolutionary meaning produces a motivation to attain that need.
    • need (n): the state of requiring the neurochemical activity produced by evolutionary meaning to either A) attain the biopsychological resources that co-occur with that activity (such as motivation, safety, confidence or calmness), or B) avoid the distressing internal feedback that comes from the absence of that chemical activity (such as stress, anhedonia, paranoia, anger or insecurity).
    • sine wave (n): a pattern that arises from the interaction of needs and drives that creates peaks and valleys of meaningful engagement; a process wherein a developing need produces a drive to satisfy that need and ends in satiation, followed by the lowering of that need and drive, becoming iterative when that need and drive reappear after some time of chemical inactivity.Goals - Sine Wave 01C
    • spiral dynamics (n): the tendency for chemical feedback loops to produce behavior that trends increasingly positive/adaptive, or negative/maladaptive, visualized as feedback loops moving either up or down as spirals; i.e. “the downward spiral.”Goals - Downward Spiral 01D
      • downward spiral (n): when acting on the world creates distressing internal feedback and an absence of psychological resources, which affects the subsequent round of thought and behavior maladaptively, which creates further distress, lack of resources and maladaptive behavior; a process that can be self-reinforcing and exponential.
      • upward spiral (n): when acting on the world creates positive internal feedback and psychological resources, creating adaptive behavior, which leads to further internal feedback and resources, and further adaptive behavior; a process that can be self-reinforcing and exponential.
  • complex adaptive system (n): a type of complex system studied in systems theory and second-order cybernetics; a population of agents that act and react to one another’s actions, creating emergent behavior (a school of fish, nations in a global economy, or businesses in a market); (see: biosystem; superorganism).
  • faith logic (n): in the context of this theory, the reconciliation of our adaptive need for accurate and intelligent predictions about our environment, with the brain’s need to anticipate some kind of rewarding, and therefore motivating, outcome; often, the defense of beliefs that promise rewarding outcomes against information that challenges those outcomes, in order to protect our dopaminergic motivation and activity.
  • evolution (n): A trial-and-error process of variation and natural selection of systems at all levels of complexity; used here as a general theory of evolution that applies to different “levels” of evolution; sees order self-organize through trial-and-error, bottom-up processes to create higher-order units as in the progression: quarks > atoms > molecules > cells > organisms > superorganisms.
    • cultural evolution (n): the current level of meta-system transition evolution and the most salient to human social life; the general theory of evolution as applied to culture, where culture is evolving toward higher levels of control, goal-directedness, less friction and more social synergy (see: metasystem transition theory); a direction to human cultural evolution that humans can purposefully serve (see: neurodiversity).
    • game theory (n): a theory that emerged within systems theory that studied patterns in cooperative and non-cooperative games.
    • gene-culture co-evolutionary theory (n): a framework to makes sense of interactions between genes and culture where culture creates an environment of selection that acts on particular genes and sometimes vice-versa; example: lactose digestion genes arising in cultures that used cow milk
    • group-selection (n): a theory that selection can operate on groups; becomes more salient as groups compete and group-level properties among individuals create greater cooperation or friction that confers advantages or disadvantages that become selected for.
    • multi-level selection theory (n): a modification to group-selection that suggests that selection operates at multiple “levels” of evolution from individuals to groups, with some circumstances leading to a shift from one level to the next; a movement toward a general theory of evolution that operates at multiple “levels” of matter and energy.
    • metasystem transition theory (n): the product of second-order cybernetics, a subset of systems theory, that in addition to selection, evolution works by self-organization, creating bottom-up order between agents; the idea that self-organization is directional toward higher levels of control, more intelligent goal-directedness, more synergistic social networks; the idea that directionality in evolution predictably sees evolutionary shifts from lower-levels (for instance, atoms) to higher-levels (i.e. molecules), and that it is predictable that they will shift again to still higher levels (i.e. cells, organisms, superorganisms, global superorganism).
  • goal-directedness (n): a property of cybernetic organisms with representational brains to simulate the future environment and work toward an ideal outcome; the cybernetic control of one’s environment to “steer” toward an ideal goal-state, and away from obstructive deviations in course, across time and space; (see: motivation).
  • internalized oppression (n): a concept by French post-modernist, Michel Foucault; the internalization of a culture’s judgments about a disempowered class of people by the disempowered themselves, leading to self-hate, self-repression, and self-limitation.
  • mind-body-world connection (n): a tri-directional feedback loop between the brain, the subjective mind, and the environment; a relationship between neurochemistry in the brain, the the subjective mind, and the social environment, wherein each affects the other in an ongoing feedback loop that co-evolves over time; the nature of the connection established by a neurochemical feedback mechanism.
    • connection (n): one of four types of evolutionary meaning; a win-win attachment facilitated through touch, empathy and an abstract sense of similarity; a transpersonal phenomenon supported by mirror neurons and a mutual rise of a chemical called oxytocin; creates a subjective sense of trust, safety, generosity and social motivation; self-organizes into social networks.Community - Connection 04B
    • friction (n): one of four types of evolutionary meaning; an escalating lose-lose antagonism facilitated through hostility, impulsivity and obsession; a transpersonal phenomenon supported by mirror neurons and a mutual lowering of the neurochemical serotonin; creates a subjective sense of distrust, danger, injustice and punishment; self-organizes into social friction, or into social rules that seek to mitigate friction.Justice - Feedback Loop 02B
    • motivation/anticipation/reward/novelty (n): one of four types of evolutionary meaning; the property of rewarding goal-states to release the motivating chemical dopamine when anticipated, creating action toward that goal; the property of dopamine to reward the unpredictable or novelty, creating curiosity and learning; creates a subjective sense of willpower, creativity, pleasure, engagement and curiosity; self-organizes into social visions (see: goal-directedness).Goals - Dreams 01A
    • status (n): one of four types of evolutionary meaning; a win-lose outcome of competitive games to determine a winner and a loser who see a elevation and lowering of status respectively; a transpersonal phenomenon supported by mirror neurons and the rise or lowering of testosterone depending on victory or defeat; creates a subjective sense of dominance/submission, confidence/insecurity, decisiveness/disorganization; self-organizes into social hierarchies.Hierarchy - Competition 01E
  • neurodiversity (n): temperament genes selected for by culture that tweak our biochemical needs for meaning in order to contribute different strengths and weaknesses to a group; the examples include the DRD4.7r dopamine receptor gene and the short-allele of the SERT/5httlpr serotonin transporter gene.
    • evolutionary diversity (n): a population-level perspective on temperament genes that shows them to lead to emergent communities with somewhat competing values and agendas, even as they are engaged in a defacto cooperation in a complex adaptive system framework; see: evolutionary politics.
    • evolutionary mental health (n): an alternate framework to the diathesis-stress model of psychopathology; a framework that the genetic basis for mental health arises from temperament genes that confer greater sensitivity on our biochemical mechanisms making minority temperaments more prone to particular mental illness as a necessary trade-off to particular strengths.
    • evolutionary purpose (n): the concept that the strengths and weakness conferred by temperament genes serve to facilitate particular kinds of roles and purposes to the group; the implication that a “life of purpose” is experienced as a life of meaning, conferring status, community, fairness and a viable future.
    • evolutionary politics (n): a framework to interpret politics through the lens of evolutionary diversity; a framework for seeing liberal/conservative politics through competing neurodiversity strategies of individualism and collectivism; a yin-yang dynamic that sees incompatible temperamental paradigms drive cultural evolution even as they creates a non-rational and incompatible political discourse fraught with friction and antagonism.
  • neurotransmitters (n): a chemical messenger in the brain that transmits a signal across a synapse between two neurons; an important chemical in propogating action potentials, or electrical signals, across neural networks in order to activate information held in the brain; see: chemical feedback mechanisms.
    • Sections - Goals 01Adopamine (n): a neurotransmitter in the brain involved in the limbic system, and found in a few important areas of the frontal cortex like the anterior cingulate and ventral tegmental area; produces feelings of pleasure and motivation and supports learning, curiosity, creativity, novelty-seeking and goal-directed behavior; released through the attainment of rewards (D2 receptor subtype), the anticipation of rewards (D1), the experience of novelty and learning (D4); low dopamine creates anhedonia (lack of pleasure), amotivation (lack of motivation) and apathy (lack of caring), implicating it in disorders of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia; involved in creating goals, dreams and social visions.
    • Sections - Networks 01Aoxytocin (n): a neurotransmitter that promotes subjective feelings of trust, safety, generosity; produced by skin-to-skin contact, empathic connection, trusting relationships and cooperation; primes the body for the release of dopamine, creating social motivation; heavily involved in mother-child attachment, attachment disorders, failure-to-thrive, tend-and-befriend stress response in women and social dysfunctions; involved in the creation of social relationships and social networks.
    • Sections - Friction 01Aserotonin (n): a neurotransmitter heavily activate in the amygdala and involved in mood, aggression, obsession and impulsivity; adjusts mood based on social status; low serotonin creates hostility, impulsive behavior and obsession; implicated in anger disorders, borderline personality disorder, OCD and depression; also regulates a variety of bodily functions from digestion, appetite and sleep; involved in social friction, and the creation of rule systems and social hierarchies.
    • Sections - Hierarchy 01Atestosterone (n): a neurotransmitter and sex hormone involved in perceived status, confidence, decisiveness and power motivation; men have 30-60 times the amount of T produced by women, yet both drives regulate competitive drives, with women’s emphasizing group competition and men’s individual competition; fluctuates with social status; involved in games for status and social hierarchies.
  • representation (n): the property of a brain to represent, or re-present, a simulation of the environment in the mind; the hierarchical integration of multiple senses into model of the world stored in memory that can extend the imagined environment over the horizon of immediately-experienced time and space.
  • self-organization (n): a process wherein higher coordination and order appears from bottom-up, local interactions of parts or agents in an initially disorganized system.
  • superorganism (n): an organism consisting of many organisms; the perspective of human society as an organism in the way that the human body is a society of formerly independent cells; (see: biosystem; complex adaptive system).
  • sustainable meaning (n): (individual) a sustainable social, psychological and goal-directed interaction with our social environment targeting lifestyle and worldview; (collective) a sustainable cultural, ideological and societal interaction with our environment that targets ideology and policy.
  •  system (n): a network of parts that interact to become a whole that is more than their sum