society and reproduction
An environment consists of beings, as well as matter. On being heard, conversations between them begin and grow. These gather together societies of dependency and mutual interest in which individuals receive greater value from their work that that which they would otherwise. The surplus social capital that is created has led to the world we know today, a world which has been social since soon after life began here three to four billion years ago.
The sociality of virus, microbe, and animal, blended together and evolving, inside and around us, has given rise to what we have come to know as 'us'. Only about half our cells are human. The rest are bacteria - without which we struggle to be. Our body is the environment for these beings; and they live in it as dismissive of our needs as we have been of the needs of ours.
From elemental sociality, individual multi-cellular life-forms evolved. Our own life-form evolved colonially as groups of individuals, developing from tribes into extended families, into nations, and pan-continental empires. Besides our technology, our narcissism seeks to set us apart, yet essentially we're not so different to other beings. Reproducing, protecting young, hunting and warring, but also sport, music and art are at their core all social acts, expressing and developing cultural cohesion, resourced from and generating social capital.
Before we can stand we fight to be free - it's something we line up and die for - yet alone become restless and bored. In the groups that our cultures hold together we feel at home, their customs and artifacts, buildings and stories enfolding and manifesting who we are. Born expecting a society in which we will be understood, we have learned to see, to hear, and to feel within the cultural environment that we found, growing and developing our behaviours, consciously and unconsciously, to be interpreted by those we find around us.
A being's environment is the series of spaces that it knows by experience; it is constructed by perception as much as by physics and biology. Our experience of our environment is framed by the information that is encoded in our culture. Within this our perception develops. We live as a part of our environment not apart from it, and however we might shape it we are shaped by it. It is often said that finches adapted to their environment; in practice however it's the environments that select the beings that are fit.
As well as passing on codes of biology, reproduction passes on an inheritance of codes that are cultural; these are expressed as narratives. The cultures of our family, tribe, interests, and nation, nested within one another like Russian dolls, aggregate individuals into groups, informing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. On being heard, whether within their native societies or alien ones, cultural narratives reproduce, growing and evolving, competing and cooperating with one another as individuals do.
In a culture's social crowd the boundaries of their individuals melt. With differences resolved organically, consciously or not, individuals merge. With lifespans many times those of an individual, as a culture grow its collective mass increasingly behaves as a single entity, a being that respond to threats and opportunities it perceives, that change its 'mind' and replace its 'leaders'. Comforting, exciting, and terrifying, its narratives of belief and justice hold together the society on which its individuals depend, shepherding them to labour and to war, to repress, and to revolt.
As their group size grows, cultures develop specialized roles for their individuals, and complex strategies to harness social capital. In our societies, limited companies have released this capital from the restraints of risk and responsibility that natural individuals are subject to. These incorporated organizations, serviced by people, have been granted by law the individual powers and rights of a person - to own property, to enter into contracts, and to employ others. They were the first virtual beings, their elementary, artificial intelligence created by a simple algorithm of cupidity. Conceived to direct our industry, they now drive our economies and nations.
For more than 30,000 years, while our world and brains have shrunk, virtuality has grown from handprints on cave walls to printing presses and HTML. Our elementary extended-families, boxed-up by religious doctrines and rendered nuclear, have been hacked back by wars; as societies infantilized, procedures and training replaced learning and education. Now in an age of substitution, coralled by cultures that are virtual, cellular populations of single parents grow cocooned, their territories exchanged for maps.