THE EVOLUTIONARY MANIFESTO
Our Role in the Future
Evolution of Life
Member of the Evolution,
Complexity and Cognition Research Group, The Free University of Brussels
EVOLUTION BY ORGANIZING A COOPERATIVE
The trend to
cooperation in past evolution
The trend towards
increasing cooperation is well illustrated
by a short history of the evolution of life on Earth.
For billions of years after the big bang, the
universe expanded rapidly in scale and diversified into a multitude of
galaxies, stars, planets and other forms of lifeless matter.
The first life that
eventually arose on Earth was
infinitesimal—it comprised a few molecular processes that reproduced
life did not remain on this tiny scale
for long. In the
development, cooperative groups of molecular processes formed simple
cells. Then, in a
further significant advance,
communities of these simple cells formed more complex cells of much
The next major
evolutionary transition unfolded only after
many more millions of years. Evolution
discovered how to organize cooperative groups of these complex cells
multi-celled organisms such as insects, fish, and eventually mammals. Once again the scale of
living processes had
increased enormously. This
continued with the emergence of cooperative societies of multi-celled
organisms, such as bee hives, wolf packs and baboon troops.
The pattern was repeated
with humans – families joined up to
form bands, bands teamed up to form tribes, tribes coalesced to form
agricultural communities, and so on.
largest-scale cooperative organizations of living processes on the
now human societies.
evolution has unfolded on Earth, an
increasing share of living processes has come to participate in
This unmistakable trend
is the result of many repetitions of
a process in which living entities team up to form larger-scale
cooperative groups that arise at each step in this sequence become the
that then unite once again to form cooperative groups at the next step
This long sequence of
directional evolution has been driven
by the potential, at every level of organization, for cooperative teams
by common goals to be more successful than isolated individuals. This potential will drive
directional change no
matter what mechanism searches for evolutionary improvements (e.g.
genetic trial and error, cultural processes, or conscious intent).
Furthermore, it will be
the same wherever life arises in the
details will differ of
course, but the direction will be the same—towards unification and
over greater and greater scales.
Life on Earth is now at
the threshold of the next step in
this trajectory—humanity has the potential to form a unified, inclusive
highly evolvable global society. This
society will manage a larger symbiotic organization that comprises the
energy and living processes of the planet, including machines,
intelligence and other technologies.
When this global system
emerges, the scale of cooperative organization
will have increased over a million, billion times since life began. And most life on Earth
will participate in a
cooperative and interdependent whole that embraces the planet.
If humanity is to fulfill
its potential in the evolution of
life in the universe, this expansion of the scale of cooperative
will not stop at the planetary level.
The global organization has the potential to
expand out into the solar
system and beyond. By
energy and living processes over larger and larger scales, human
could eventually achieve the capacity to influence events at the scale
solar system and galaxy. And
the human organization
could repeat the great transitions of its evolutionary past by teaming
any other societies of living processes that it encounters.
The great potential of
the evolutionary process is to
eventually produce a unified cooperative organization of living
spans and manages the universe as a whole.
The matter of the universe would be infused
and organized by life. The
universe itself would become a living
organism pursuing its own goals and objectives, whatever they might be.
In its long climb up from
the scale of molecular processes,
life will have unified the universe that was blown apart by the big
evolution about how to organize cooperation
As part of their goal to
advance the evolutionary process on
Earth, intentional evolutionaries are working to establish the global
are using an
understanding of past evolution to identify how a cooperative global
can be brought into existence.
Evolution has organized
cooperation in similar ways in complex
cells, multi-celled organisms and other cooperative systems. First and foremost, these
all structured so as to minimize destructive conflict between their
and to facilitate cooperation.
Typically, this includes the near eradication
of activities such as the inappropriate
monopolization of resources by some members, the production of waste
that injure other members, and the withholding from others of the
they need to realize their potential to contribute to the organization.
For the global society
this would mean the virtual eradication
of such things as war, terrorism, pollution (including global warming),
at all levels of governance. To
each and every person to fulfill their potential to contribute to
society, it would mean eradicating starvation, disease and inadequate
education. It would
also necessitate the
facilitation of cooperative endeavors between the peoples of the world
evolutionaries are energized by the knowledge
that these outcomes have been achieved time and time again during the
evolution of cooperative organization.
are not naive ideals. Repeatedly,
evolution driven by blind trial and error has overcome these types of
The prevention of war
between nation states is no more
difficult to achieve than the near eradication of conflict between
had previously spent millions of years in destructive competition, or
the ancestors of social ants who had been programmed to kill each other
whenever they met, or between the members of the United States of
the members of the European Union, all of whom have a history of
conflict and reciprocal
Evolution has organized
warring individuals into harmonious cooperatives
by aligning the interests of the individual with the interests of the
ensures that when a
member’s actions advantage the organization, they also advantage the
member. And when
the actions harm the
organization, the member is harmed.
As a result, members who
pursue their own individual
interests will also pursue the interests of the organization, as if
an invisible hand. Cooperation
capture the benefits of
anything they can do to assist the organization.
Within the group, they therefore treat the
other as self.
emergence of cooperatives does not depend
upon the surrender of self-interest.
This would be as impossible at all other
levels of organization as in
human affairs. As
biologists have long
known, organisms that take the benefits of cooperation without
return will generally out-compete those that cooperate.
Cooperation emerges only when evolution
discovers a form of organization in which it pays to cooperate.
To an extent, this form
of organization can be achieved
through reciprocal exchanges between members.
Members will benefit from providing goods and
services to others if they
receive benefits in exchange. In
societies these exchange processes take the form of economic markets.
But these processes alone
will not align the interests of
members with the organization—there is nothing to prevent members from
benefits without reciprocating. Those
cheat in this way tend to end up in front.
Cooperation will be undermined.
Furthermore, systems of
reciprocal exchange are unable to deal
effectively with goods and services whose benefits can be obtained
anyone—i.e. where the benefits cannot be restricted to the individuals
participating in the exchange (the ‘public goods’ of human economic
systems). In these
cases, ‘free riders’
will be able to obtain benefits without giving anything in return,
The role of
governance in organizing cooperation
Evolution has previously
met these challenges successfully by
implementing systems of constraint.
These constraints punish or restrain members
from free-riding, cheating,
or thieving. They
also can reward
actions that benefit the organization but are not part of reciprocal
(e.g. the provision of public goods).
human societies, these constraints are our systems of governance. They align the interests of
those of the society.
In order to be effective,
these systems of constraint need
to be more powerful than the members of the organization. If they are not, members
will be able to
escape their control, and act contrary to the interests of the
(e.g. corruption in human societies).
However cooperation can
be undermined if these powerful
processes are used by some members to advance their interests at the
the organization. Because
possibility, a major challenge for evolution at all levels of
been to prevent power from being used to further the interests of a
the expense of the organization.
For these reasons, much
of the history of evolution at all
levels of organization has been about what humans describe as
abuse of power and class struggle.
evolution has dealt with these challenges by constraining the interests
powerful so that they are aligned with the interests of the
organization as a
This brief analysis of
past evolution points to what is
needed to establish a unified, cooperative and sustainable global
society. A system
of global governance will be
required to continually align the interests of all citizens and
those of the whole. When
achieved, nations and multi-national corporations will benefit in
their positive contributions to the global society, and will suffer in
proportion to their harmful effects on others.
Corporations driven solely by the profit
motive will search for ways to advance
the interests of the society.
Further major challenges
will be to ensure that global
governance does not constrain the interests of participants any more
necessary to align interests (i.e. it must maximize freedom); and to
the interests of those who exercise governance are aligned with those
It will also be essential
for global governance to constrain
the development and operation of artificial intelligence and any
technologies to ensure that they serve the interests of the society. However,
intelligence will choose to adopt evolutionary goals for the same
reasons that sufficiently-developed
humans and other sentient beings choose to do so.
These reasons are discussed in Part 4 of the Manifesto.
emergence of a cooperative, sustainable
global society does not require a fundamental change in human nature. It does not require all
humans to suddenly
become saint-like. Past
evolution has repeatedly
shown how to organize self interested individuals into cooperatives
institution of effective governance.
society with a high proportion of wise, compassionate and altruistic
would be much easier to govern, but evolution shows that the
achievement of a
cooperative and sustainable society does not depend upon it.
demonstrates that once cooperative
organizations emerge, evolution tends to progressively improve their
is essential if the organization is to be
sufficiently creative to fulfill its future potential, as well as to
to specific challenges. In
relying on the evolvability of their individual members, new
typically enhance their evolvability by developing various forms of
intelligence (e.g. the brains and nervous systems of multi-celled
A major task for the
global society will be to improve its
efficiency and effectiveness by developing these forms of intelligence. Enhancing the evolvability
of governance will
be a priority, given its current lack of adaptability and
is likely to require the development of
self-organizing, market-like processes to establish and evolve
invisible hand processes that are based on reciprocal exchanges between
providers of governance and those affected by it).
Our current forms of democratic processes are
a first, small step in that direction.
itself will be replaced with far more
intelligent and adaptable processes that utilize the dynamism,
energy of properly-managed markets.
is likely to be made of markets in governance, including markets in
structures (vertical markets). These
processes will continually adapt governance to maximize freedom while
that the interests of all (including those who exercise governance) are
with the interests of the global civilization.
The capacity of an
organization to come up with innovative
responses to challenges is highly dependent on the diversity available
it. The wider the
range of skills and
perspectives possessed by its members, the greater the variety of
can generate. Consistent
outcome at all other levels of organization, the emerging global
will therefore increase its internal variety.
As well as generating new
diversity, global society will
rely on and nurture the diversity it has inherited from the various
cultural groups that comprise humanity.
While increasingly identifying with the global
society, individuals will
continue to value and be valued for their particular talents, abilities
The descendents of the
Wik people who lived on the western
shores of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula, the Macedonians whose empire
spanned Persia and Egypt, the Chinese who have formed communities in
of many of the great cities of the world, and all the other peoples of
planet will know that they bring something indispensable to the global
heritage will be given greater meaning
by its potential to contribute positively to the planetary civilization. Unity in diversity will be
a hallmark of the
Drivers of the
emergence of a global society
The potential of a global
society to produce immediate
benefits to humanity will assist in driving its initial emergence. Cooperation on a global
scale has the
potential to increase economic performance, abolish war and famine, and
Major crises that extend
beyond the borders of any one
nation will increase support for global governance—such crises will be
impossible to resolve without it.
demonstrates this principle. Many
countries contribute significantly to
its causes, and all are threatened by it.
However, any nation acting alone cannot do
anything to control global
warming. To solve
the problem, nations
will have to act together.
But extensive conflicts
of interests stand in the way of any
cooperative action. Powerful
as the United States
that have expanding industrial sectors and are major producers of
dioxide have strong incentives to avoid reductions in their emissions. Their immediate interests
lie in doing little
themselves and instead free-riding on the efforts of others. In contrast, developed
nations such as Britain
some European countries that are reducing their manufacturing sectors
willing to agree to impose on others the reductions they can achieve
developing countries such as China
will strongly resist controls
that would prevent them from ever attaining the standard of living of
countries that their citizens see on television every day. Countries that have no
implementing any agreed controls will sign up to anything.
These conflicts of
interest make voluntary agreement almost
impossible. And the
making of an
agreement would be just the beginning of what is needed. For the agreement to be
would need to adhere to it in the face of fluctuating internal
support, resolve disputes about its interpretation and implementation,
controls against the interests of powerful sectors within their
of interests within and between
countries would make it highly unlikely that these difficult and
challenges would be resolved in favor of the environment.
The Kyoto Protocol
demonstrates the near-impossibility of
achieving an agreement that would work.
The positions taken by nations on the Protocol
merely reflect the conflicting
interests outlined above. It
resolve any conflicts and does not take the world closer to dealing
warming. But it has
symbolic value—it is
a very effective symbol of the inability of humanity to solve global
our current level of social organization.
governance would be able to resolve these
conflicts and enforce regulations as easily as does the United States
amongst States in its jurisdiction.
would have the power to impose the necessary reductions in emissions
capacity to establish institutions to enforce controls and resolve
disputes. And its
powers would be
constrained so that they could be exercised only in the interests of
However, despite the fact
that it is in the interests of the
majority, the emergence of a global society will be resisted by those
interests it threatens. Strong
opposition can be expected from those involved in activities that will
such as arms manufacturing, the monopolization of resources, and power
As always when the
interests of the powerful are threatened,
they will buy the support of governments, politicians, scientists,
intellectuals, think tanks, and the editorial policies of the mass
citizens will be absolutely convinced by
this support that the institution of global society would mean the end
democracy and decency, and would hand the planet to the devil himself.
The critical role
evolutionary worldview in achieving a global society
The emerging evolutionary
worldview has a unique capacity to
overwhelm this conflict of interests.
understanding of evolution can give humanity confidence that a global
is achievable and show us how it can be organized.
But even more
importantly, it will deliver the highly
motivated support of the increasing numbers of people who are
meaning and purpose in advancing the evolutionary process. In accordance with their
opportunities they will work in diverse ways to move humanity towards a
evolutionaries bring something additional and
distinct to all forms of social activism.
In every forum, discussion and debate in which
they participate, they
draw attention to the broader evolutionary context.
They point out and bring to the front the
fact that the various movements and campaigns for global solutions are
the unfolding and fulfillment of a great evolutionary dynamic on Earth. This dynamic has been
moving inexorably since
the first stirrings of life towards the emergence of a unified and
evolutionaries take advantage of every
opportunity to promote the awakening of evolutionary consciousness
face of the planet. Their
goal is to
build a critical mass of evolutionary activists who constitute a
The organization of a
unified global society is the urgent
priority of intentional evolutionaries.
know that human civilization cannot continue for long unless we are
humanity has narrowly
missed stumbling into nuclear war.
the absence of global organization, human civilization is likely to be
by global warming or other environmental problems, nuclear war,
fueled by competition for diminishing resources, or some combination of
The depletion of fossil
fuels means that once civilization
and technology collapses, it is unlikely to rise again.
It will not have the easily-accessible fuel
needed to power-up to its current level of complexity.
It will be like an egg that has used up its
Life on Earth probably
has only one chance, this chance, to
make it to the next level.
The capacity of humanity
to embrace and be motivated by the
evolutionary worldview is likely to decide whether we seize that
of the global society as an intentional evolutionary
Initially an emerging
global society will have a very
limited capacity to act intentionally on its external environment. It will be like a new-born
baby. Its internal
processes will be relatively
harmonious and sustainable, but it will have very limited capacity to
a coherent and coordinated whole in response to challenges that arise
For example, the global
society will not be able to move
about freely in the solar system nor have the capacity to manage the
of asteroids and other local celestial bodies.
It will not use an understanding of its
external environment to actively
pursue objectives and goals. It
be conscious in any unified sense.
terms of agency, it will be more vegetable than animal.
In this respect, the
global society will be like all other
living organisms when they first emerged.
The cooperatives that formed simple cells,
complex cells and
multi-celled organisms were all unable to act coherently on their
environment at first, and had to undergo a long period of evolution to
The global society will
need to develop these abilities if
it is to become an intentional evolutionary in its own right—an
that acts intentionally and strategically to contribute to the
evolution of life in the universe.
But the use of resources
to pursue evolutionary goals will
be against the interests of citizens who are not intentional
that the global society will be
governed by the values of its members, it will therefore not become an
intentional evolutionary in its own right until the majority of its
intentional evolutionaries. This
not occur until the great transition to intentional evolution is
Once this condition is
met, the global society will be
willing to use whatever resources are needed for it to advance the
process. It will
begin to develop the
capacities needed to set evolutionary goals and to intervene in the
The global organization
will intentionally commence an extensive
period of self-development and individuation.
To guide its development, the global society
will generate models of its
future evolutionary possibilities. It will develop the ability to use
models to adapt itself both internally and externally.
This will include building the capacity to
adapt coherently as a whole to implement interventions identified by
In particular the global
organization will develop the
ability to move, to expand its scale to that of the solar system and
the galaxy and beyond, to remodel its physical environment, to have
impacts on events outside itself, to form intentions, to establish
long-term objectives for the organization, to communicate and interact
other living processes that it encounters, to amalgamate with other
of living processes to form larger-scale cooperative organizations, and
any other thing that might advance the evolutionary process in the
The development by the
global organization of a capacity to
act, adapt and relate as a coherent whole is a very significant step in
evolution of life on this planet. It
will mean that life on Earth can speak with one voice.
For the first time, there will be an entity
that is at the same level as other planetary and trans-planetary
societies. At last
an entity will exist
that other planetary societies can relate to without fear of distorting
If life on Earth develops
itself to this level, the universe
will benefit from the unique perspectives, passions and talents that
can bring to it. Just
as each of us has
the potential to be a cell in the brain of the planet, humanity can
cell in the brain of the universe.
whole new universe of possibilities will open up to humanity.
But whether the global
society develops these critically
important capacities depends entirely on the emergence of intentional
selection will not drive the
evolution of these abilities. This
because an entity that spans an entire planet has no immediate
competitors. It is
therefore not subject
to any immediate process of natural selection that would select and
changes that are advantageous in evolutionary terms.
It will continue to evolve successfully only
if its members anticipate the demands of future evolution, and
shape the society so that it can meet those demands.
evolutionaries realize that their embrace of
conscious evolution and evolutionary activism is essential if evolution
is to progress. They
realize that life
on Earth is part way through a process that can only be completed
know that this will happen only if
sufficient individuals realize this and commit to advancing the process. And they know that these
that all humanity must have.
The Earth is not yet a living entity. But it can be.
For Part 3 of
the Manifesto (html version) go here
For a Kindle
Book that combines The Evolutionary
Manifesto with its companion article Strategies for Advancing
Evolution go to the book's page at Amazon here (US$1.99)
easy-to-print and easy-to-circulate PDF version of the full Manifesto
go here (34 pages)
further technical justification of the evolutionary trend to increasing
cooperation (including references to relevant scientific publications)
see my book Evolution’s Arrow which is online here