Post-Primate Society: A New Look At The Human Story

Last week I released a new book on Post-Primate Society. I posted it to our members page, available to all our paid subscribers. I’ve also uploaded it to Kindle. A printed book may follow at some point, but I’m not sure when. 

There is a lot to be said about this book, but I think I’d like to let others say it. I see the book as good, compelling and important, but I’ll stop there. 

Here, in this public post, is the introduction to the book, which I called (in the parlance of classical music) an overture. 

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The dark ages still reign over all humanity, and the depth and persistence of this domination are only now becoming clear. (Buckminster Fuller, Cosmography)

The golden age is before us, not behind us. (William Shakespeare, Simon The Zealot)

Humanity is just now hitting its stride, or at least we’re threatening to. We approached it before World War I, then suffered through a long, ugly period. Over the past couple of generations, however, our leading edges have started to push through the thorns and weeds, and there’s a reasonable chance that we’ll make it this time. But even if this attempt fails, one of the generations that follows us will make it. Post-primate society is coming; it’s only a question of when.

This much is certain, because the development of mankind – of the human race – has been nothing short of spectacular. We have risen so fast that any other conclusion must stand upon a demand for gloominess and depression. The long-term record is clear, and in fact it is shocking.

I’ll go through the facts about humankind’s meteoric rise in Movement One, but it’s one of the more obvious facts to be seen in this world. In fact, the only way people avoid seeing mankind this way is to insist that mankind is not part of the natural world, but is some type of unspecified other, so we can be more harshly judged. Seeing the human as part of nature, there is no getting around the fact that our development spectacularly exceeds that of anything and everything else.

Whoever resents us proclaiming the exceptional nature of mankind (and many do), it’s true all the same. Reality doesn’t bend to the demands of the pompous and the imposing.

It’s also true that the fundamental drivers of our transition are already with us. One of those is the golden rule. This formulation has been used for thousands of years, by nearly every moral teacher of note, and is used by nearly all of us on a daily basis. If nothing else, we continually see it as, “He wouldn’t like it if I did it to him.”

I won’t make this a treatise on morality, but the golden rule is crucial for two reasons:

  1. It is universal, comprehensible and effective.
  2. It leads us directly into post-primate life.

Contrary modes of life and morality are widely enforced, of course, and they, not coincidentally, support primate society rather than post-primate society. And so these contrary moralities chain us to a primate past, rather than assisting us into a post-primate future.

Again, there is more to be said on this subject, but this is not the best place to do so; we need to move on. But the importance of this should not be passed-up: Moving from primate life to an elevated and better life is not something to be sacrificed to loud and imposing voices. No matter how high and mighty the opponent of progress may be, he (or she or they) is to be ignored. Human ascent is far bigger than the potentate of the moment, whomever that may be and however they may glorify themselves.

It’s also telling that chosen societies (arrangements that people build and maintain because they want them) flow directly into post-primate life. And likewise that enforced societies (with arrangements enforced by those sitting at the tops of hierarchies) are sustaining the primate model of life on this planet. Chosen society cultivates benevolence, confidence and competence, while enforced society generates fear, intimidation and compliance.

Post-primate society, then, is better for the organism, while primate society is better for the machine.

All of that said,, our development will continue into post-primate life, and the facts imply that it’s even accelerating.

In this book we will examine the transitions of mankind: from where we started, to where we’ve come, to where we’re going. You’ll find a great deal of support for the ideas I’ve presented here, but first another point should be asserted:

We’ve already exited our primate phase and are presently in a hybrid phase. We can’t go back. Our choice is now between entropy and a kind of divinity.

To be clear, “divinity,” as we’re using it here, refers to the active and willful transcendence of entropy, which is a core operation of advancing and advanced humans. But it also refers to the angelic characteristics that form within people who operate this way. However we choose describe these things (and we lack clear terminology), they are real, they are potent, and they are spreading within us.

(Entropy, to be clear, is a winding down of available energy: a battery losing its charge, areas of hot and cold becoming lukewarm, and so on.)

In fact, we’ve know for some time that good habits travel in clusters, reinforcing each other. This is true for things of the mind and things of the body, and for the links between them. For example, we know that exercise, will power and other good habits link together and strengthen one another.

With no way back to primate life, we face two choices: We can become angelic or we can slide into a deep stagnation: into brightly colored concentration camps with endless distractions and a perpetual sound track: where life isn’t particularly nasty, only sometimes brutish, and not necessarily short… but where it’s all illusion, all vicarious and all externally-derived: where life isn’t really life at all.

But while some people will choose this type of entropy rather than divinity, that model will not dominate for very long, since people living that way don’t do much except eat, immerse themselves in fantasies, and die. Such modes of life aren’t sustainable.

One way or another, post-primate society is coming. It can be delayed (as indeed it has been), but it will not be stopped. And the people who attain it – whether it be us or our successors – will resemble angels when compared with peoples of the past.

We should additionally consider that post-primate characteristics are already with us; what we’re becoming isn’t actually foreign to us. Creativity, benevolence, tolerance, patience, a belief in human dignity, the ability to experience wonder and awe… these characteristics are indeed angelic, and we know them fairly well.

Furthermore, this transition of ours does not demand that we shed our blood, climb impossible mountains, and spend every last ounce of our strength. On the contrary, it requires that we stop wasting our strength on primate-model beliefs. Once we pull ourselves away from the habits that abuse us, our lives will become easier, more productive, more peaceful, deeper, and a lot less frightening.

The model of the primate, to state it briefly, is hierarchy, and the model of the post-primate is decentralized, voluntary interactions. We’ll shortly deal with the intricacies of these descriptions, but they will hold. And aside from mankind’s religious devotion to hierarchy, we all know that it’s a flawed model: most of us complain about it, often on a daily basis.

And so we really are threatening to hit our stride. We have been moving away from dominance hierarchies and into decentralized arrangements that treat humans as primaries, not as secondaries. A great number of us have grasped that we shouldn’t live as auto-reaction machines, prodded from one outrage to another.

The “leading edge” noted in our first paragraph refers to movements toward decentralization, and we’ve seen a long stream of them. We’ve seen businesses trying to “flatten” and reengineer, the Internet blasting through information bottlenecks, Bitcoin’s radical decentralization, Abraham Maslow’s findings that human health is inverse to control, Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication, free-market economics, the repeating failures of socialist (command) economies, and even the reluctant movement of historians away from the potentates at the tops of hierarchies to the people who grew, built and invented everything.

These and a dozen others are recognitions that decentralized interactions are far more central to human thriving than their hierarchical alternatives. Still more important, even crucial, is this fact:

Decentralized society rests upon human virtues, while hierarchical society rests upon human weaknesses.

If this is true at all (and it’s clearly true in practice), it encapsulates our problem: Hierarchical, primate-modeled society requires frightened, confused and compliant subjects. And so, that is what it has cultivated. Decentralized, post-primate societies require will, action, passion and endurance. And so that’s what they cultivate.

Some generation is going to grasp this, and some body of people will enter a better age.

A great transition lies in front of us, and we are quite able to complete it. If we do, our futures will be better, brighter, and far less painful than what our ancestors endured. But in order to reach it, we’ll have to overcome inertia, act on our own wills, and push through difficult barriers.

Here, to complete this Overture, is a passage from Ben Hecht’s autobiography, A Child of The Century. Hecht was a hard case when it came to believing in human goodness; he had previously made a career of exposing and critiquing human stupidities. Nonetheless, Hecht was an honest observer, and he eventually saw that human trajectory was progressive, not regressive; running into a better age, not away from one.

Here’s his account of that turning point:

A simple fact entered my head one day and put an end to my revolt against the Deity. It occurred to me that God was not engaged in corrupting the mind of man but in creating it. This may sound like no fact at all, or like the most childish of quibbles. But whatever it is, it brought me a sigh of relief, a slightly bitter sigh. I was relieved because instead of beholding man as a finished and obviously worthless product, unable to bring sanity into human affairs, I looked on him as a creature in the making. And lo, I was aware that like my stooped and furry brothers, the apes, I am God’s incomplete child. My groping brain, no less than my little toe, is a mechanism in His evolution-busy hands.

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Paul Rosenberg