We’re living in a paradigm where the highest valued knowledge is often “top down.” This means we try to make our perspectives as detached, removed and objective as possible in order to see something very clearly. Conceptually, it started at least, as acknowledging ourselves as beyond nature, because we have the ability to reason. This detachment allowed us to peer into eden as if we were somehow aliens, or rational ghosts in biological machines. This view saw the Earth as a thing to be dissected, picked apart until more facets and features were categorized. Grand theories developed. Over-generalizations were possible from up above. One mistake was likening the world to simple mathematics, or, any object that exists is equal to the sum of its parts. See that tree? It is leaves + bark + roots + photosynthesis.
This inevitably ran into problems, you see, because things are much more complicated than that, and it’s difficult to understand this from a top-down methodology. When looking at the human brain, we couldn’t fathom how people could be people. If you look closely, you see neurons that don’t appear to be self-aware. How could mind arise from things that seem to have no mind? Do we simply equate human beings with lumps of brains? Well, certainly not. What was missing from all of these attitudes (sometimes with drastic consequences) was the ability to perceive an object, an organism from the bottom-up. If we came down into the perspective, start with the specifics, the relationships, we can see that an object is not the sum of its parts. No, instead, things seem to have multiplicative properties. In other words, two things come together, and can create something more than what they were individually. Sodium chloride, H20, the human mind. There is a synergistic property to many things, and that means we could no longer rely on a “top down” approach to understanding. Logically, sure, things could still be mathematical, but at a vastly more complex level than ever before. Multiplicative points of view required us to step down from our analytical throne and go into the jungle, to see the synergistic qualities that life had. These also demand the usage of heavy computing power.
And that indeed may finally enable us to understand how consciousness arose. It also may help us understand the complexity and overall structures to nature, ecosystems and eventually the birth of living machines. Now, paradigms aren’t merely homogenous (Newtonian, Einstein, etc), they are heterogenous mixtures, where there are dominant traits, but dozens of alternative possibilities co-existing in the pipelines. Paradigms are thus seen as vast assemblages of supported ideas, some varying, others defying. There are larger structures, and diversions to those structures. This is what bottom-up analysis allows, and it has the potential to revolutionize the social sciences, nay, philosophical circles in general. Imagine if we took this attitude in academia? Traditional approaches would be faced with the challenge of accounting for vastly complex and deeper understanding of human nature, thought, societies and history. Slowly, surely, the old paradigm would no longer add up. Evolutionarily speaking, it would lose its value and cease to be the dominant meme. Top-down approaches would be supplementary to bottom-up, and the two of them would have to work together to create–well, who knows. That may be ages ahead of our time.
And so my point to all of this is: We are entering into an age where the natural sciences, the social sciences, and philosophies are beginning to perceive a more intricate universe. It is up to us to flesh out these new possibilities and bring to life a new age of thought, and perhaps (arguably) trans-rational ideas.