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  • Covid tipped the balance but new science was already redesigning our understanding of morality.

    It is important to understand that any attempt to set moral values and ethical rules and then to proceed to enforce them, is as immoral as the immorality it attempts to overcome—in a fair and open society. In a world with many believes any belief set and enforced on others instantly breaches this basic requirement of morality. The philosopher Kant along with most moral philosophers furthermore agree that a basic moral obligation is to not treat humanity as a mere means. This obligation extends to also treating ourselves as part of humanity and not as a mere means to self-gratification or increasing status by enforcing our ideas of morality onto others. By blindly following a certain belief with concrete moral values and then continuing to promote similar beliefs and criticize and judge others in breach of such values, not only do we treat humanity as a mere means to strengthen personal beliefs and gain self-recognition, but it disregards others and their beliefs. So there clearly is no higher morality in setting a list of moral rules and then enforcing them onto others, especially using, deprivation, threats or force to gain support. There is however lots to be gained from constantly searching for and improving a universal ethic constantly adjusting its values to progress towards a more livable world and ethical society for all it contains. Currently we are negotiating two worlds: one with no power, neglect, poverty and poor health, and another generally set by economists in a world of power-play, control, nervousness and uncertainty— both clearly can be improved. Established as issues affecting us all, this concern has progressed beyond moral judgment or an attempt to set another belief system, in as much as revealing inevitable weaknesses in the current system in urgent need of change. Change is also newly understood as a prerequisite for both progressive knowledge and understanding in our search for a better, safer and more functional world. Subsequently this is a duty and not another mere proposition to be followed by dogma and concrete rules. From accession to impartial knowledge also mostly flow the performance of altruism. This in turn further reciprocating our capacity of knowing and improving our understanding of each other, our world and subsequently our morality. For this reason, a free media and open education remain essential in evolving both our knowledge and morality. Unaltered and constantly updated knowledge is vital to any evolutionary epistemology. Ridding knowledge of being suspicious of manipulation is a moral obligation to help reciprocally advance our understanding and improve our interconnected world and its unanimous concerns. Reducing existing biases in the distribution or attempts to sway the interpretation of knowledge, is a barrier to an expanding network with its links based on trust and respect set in a secure ethos. Such an interlinked network can also create the opportunity for all to confidently participate in our search for a better world and support each other. Furthermore, for knowledge to be useful, it needs to constantly improve the overall human condition. How we now beginning to understand a new evolution to function, meet these criteria. As part of a perceptive web critically depending on trustworthy links, it simultaneously is flexible and constantly adapts itself to changing conditions and new demands. The most significant impact on our morality, and in support of moral philosophers such as Kant, came from realizing how we now have to inevitably confront life as a delicately interconnected ongoing perceptive change, with progressive knowledge as an equally ephemeral base. More and more aware of what we are and how we function, we have come a long way from a Post Copernican universe and Darwin’s evolving ape. We also now realized science still cannot tell us what matter is, even down to its smallest particles (electrons and beyond) but only progress our understanding of what it does; and perhaps with some level of accuracy predict how it may behave under set conditions. With us responsible for setting and measuring these conditions, and with everything interacting and evolving in an expanding universe, constantly evolving new unknowns and more mystery, the task now appears to be growing in complexity and forever ongoing. Above all it comes with enormous moral responsibility and ethical requirements. We can perhaps see how the intrinsic nature of matter will perhaps remain forever elusive as a vital requirement for life in an expanding network, yet it A cold quiet Beijing the morning of the Covid official announcement of the Covid outbreak. remains a disciplined action. This elusiveness of matter subject to persistent change is now becoming apparent as the key ingredient of a perceptive evolution, and a conclusive ‘theory of everything’ may perhaps be an unobtainable goal. Our evolution is slowly emerging as an expanding interactive response in a growing cognitive-web, inter-dependent, from sub-atomic level right up to the human brain and extending into, who knows, but the idea of a ‘thought up’ universe is becoming quite plausible. Realizing in the sciences that the only thing we know about the intrinsic nature of matter is that some of it – the stuff making up mammalian brains – involves experience based on evolving perception and awareness, the material world is slowly losing its substance. Even here everything is also constantly changing, responding and adjusting and branching out in escalating complexity. Electrons and protons make-up atoms and atoms in turn protein molecules, brains and all else we call life as we experience it— thoughts about thoughts. All these atoms and molecules interact and respond to change, stimulating each other in an escalation of life in a living universe. We now see RNA and DNA deploying more complex protein molecules serving in escalating responses to new levels, simultaneously creating more mobility and pliability to diversify in this self-enhancing escalation of complexity we call life. In physics the crux also came in having to recently face a confidence-breaking choice. Physicists realized they have to either suppose that the intrinsic nature of fundamental particles only involves set experience of measurements of their objective values, such as waves or mass, or we suppose that they simultaneously have some entirely unknown intrinsic nature we cannot measure. Forced inarguably now to accept the metaphysical drive of macroscopic things as continuous and interlinked with the nature of microscopic things, and with both continuously interacting and changing, inevitably we confront more complexity, discontinuity and ongoing mystery— as we perceive this. This obscurity however is crucial and a congruent with a unified view coming from both evolutionary biology and physics, where new evidence leading us in the direction of what can only be seen as particle responsiveness or what physicist now refer to as panpsychism. With particle responsive only predictable up to a point, we have already mentioned how some prominent quantum physicists are leaning towards this idea. If perceptive beings responsive to each other, their world and place in an interactive expanding universe, does not awaken us to some ethical commitments in a ‘thinking’ universe what else will? Such a newly understood interconnected evolution not only continue to amaze us with its escalating complexity and interactive obligations, but re-emphasizing our moral roots set in a cognitive evolution with endless potential. This universe now appears to ‘think itself up’ into growing complexity and will not surrender to ‘set ideas’ as it expands in this cognitive force. With this new awareness also came yet another major dilemma in the physical sciences, how can there be one rule for the objective world before a measurement is made, and another that jumps in after the measurement? We now have to renew our thinking to at least three awareness levels— the perceiver of change, the change in the perceived and as containments of a perceptive network. We clearly have to consider that this expanding network driven by change may remain forever elusive and unmeasurable, all we can do is evolve as participants in measuring objective values while evolving as interconnected ‘presences’, hoping for some accuracy based on this ‘inaccuracy’. In the end they will remain mysterious and unpredictable while we exist and change in this expansive universal interconnected responsiveness. This unpredictable mystery of an infinite unknown is also exactly what drives a perceptive evolution and escalate our moral demands. Ethical commitments make it function to its full capacity, and this is where we can and must evolve beyond treating it as a mere means of exploitation of objects and each other. In thought and morality, we can secure our progress into a universe where anything is possible, hope is realistic, and dreams can come true. Set now in such a multidimensional perceptive change with its ethical demands, our duty is to make wise assessments in predicting short term outcomes of how measured objects may interact and behave in harmony to continuously evolve a better world for all and serve in a growing cognitive network. We can sense the unnecessary extra burden on this process if still complicated by attempts to manipulate, control, exploit or configure measurements and matter to fit personal short-sighted needs and serve false belief systems secured by egocentric links. Such unethical actions, generally immune to change, are also not useful in making good science, assist in understanding a growing cosmic network, or duty bound to follow a universal ethic. Science and life, both set to continuously progress in harmony and evolve cognition and understanding in a network must immunize itself against pseudoscience, financial sway and solipsism, and exploitation of ‘human capital’. We should on all levels avoid setting a rule or theory and then attempt to make and evolving world and universe fit our fixed values but rather evolve our theories and values continuously and ethically with new understanding. A model based on these values and adaptability is proposed in conclusion here. How new science is now serving as a guide to reduce bias and create a model for more adaptable healthcare systems. It becomes increasingly difficult to concede to the dogma of fixed beliefs and rules when we see both natural science and quantum physics progressing by constantly evolving one theory from another as an essential need. There is now increased responsibility on both science and society to act both ethically and flexibly as vital parts of a trustworthy interactive universal network. Placing this under the restrictive power of an outdated economic model we can clearly see the imperative need to urgently evolve here and make adjustments to obtain something more pragmatic and flexible. We have now entered an era of ‘interconnectionism’ well advanced from a freak solitary mutation exposed to a disinterested natural selection process mechanically operating based on a fight for survival. We are now busy discovering how the inanimate world interconnect and ‘communicate’ with the biological world, rhizomatically growing ethical demands on all levels. This dramatically changes not only the way we see ourselves entirely, but how an unmeasurable awareness conducts these interactions between species and now also pre-biotic levels. Darwin would certainly be surprised, if not shocked! We now see an evolution even on a molecular level as responsive, interconnected on all levels and vitally dependent on changing and changeable environments as part of a progressive interconnected cognition. This major shift in awareness and understanding also comes with renewed moral responsibility. Set on levels of interaction never dreamt of before we now have to expand our knowledge and concepts of morality to also include— infinite change, the environment and inanimate world as part of a comprehensive universal evolutionary package. Current outdated Cartesian belief systems and a myopic economic model simply can no longer hide behind unproven set concepts, or be driven by ‘physics envy’, they have to be more pragmatic. Even more frightening is if this has become tenet as is currently the case. As discussed so far, and now more aware of our evolving universal moral demands, we can no longer hide our innate egocentrism behind a selfish gene or an outdated model. We now have to consider progress as part of a unanimous cognitive evolution in a ‘thinking’ universe. This new understanding will progressively and inescapably affect us on all levels. It may excuse some of our historic immorality and ignorance but no longer has time to tolerate a faltering ethic well past its use-by date, or serve as a realistic concept anymore. From this understanding a new ethos in healthcare can also emerge if we pay heed to newly gained wisdom. We now have evidence even on cellular level demanding an ethic of equality, fairness and honesty. Such an ethic being universal, extend its duties rightfully to all levels of existence. This includes maintaining healthy environments as suitable avenues to peacefully interact and develop ourselves without fear, exclusion or suppression. Regardless of extinction theories and our own fragility in a world threatened by climate change, selfishness, political demagoguery, unemployment, meteorite strikes or global famine we are combined in an inescapable intrinsic awareness and universal ethic with infinite promise and hope. All that is required from us, is to act wisely and be part of this universal ethos slowly unfolding our cognitive presence, into a universe we are inescapably part of. Starting with the current outdated economic model, clearly distancing itself from moral concerns and urgently in need of adjustment we must all participate in change now. Our survival is now seen as a combined effort with outcomes dependent on a unanimous effort affecting and considerate of every link in an expansive network. As the caretakers of our physical and mental health, the current ethos in medicine also demands a significant update. We need to rapidly change its format to address combined concerns on all levels affecting the cognitive wellbeing of suffering sentient beings wherever possible, including the environment without cost barriers. Here above all we should not be threatened or restricted by a failing and outdated economic model or corporate mentality. Emerging from this new knowledge are now new opportunities to continuously evolve progressive models. Starting with economics and medicine we can now employ models and guidelines in a new ethos that are adaptable and receptive to continuous change and match global needs and new demands, and simultaneously function in a universal ethic. Such models should continuously re-invent itself, reduce bias and remain truthful, functional and backed by a pragmatic progressive science, while evolving knowledge in a cognitive network. Subservient to a universal ethic, rather than false beliefs or egocentric needs, it opens itself to help reduce the ongoing strife fueled by cultural and religious differences. Lining up for masks later in the day of the announcment. We can conclude by presenting one such model based on our new knowledge here: This model in order to suit progressive needs meet the following criteria: · Fit an ethic of universality and avoids dogma · Be adaptable and changeable as escalating needs change. · Evolve knowledge free from self-centered biases. · Openly and freely interconnect pragmatic knowledge as part of an expanding network · Constantly confront evolving unknowns in search of better comprehension towards an improved world, · Support un-manipulated knowledge in a universal ethic where resources are justly distributed. From this platform we interconnect an operate in three Spheres of Perception. Goal directed, pragmatic, reducing bias and with some protection against the impact of false belief systems and egocentrism, interconnecting ideas in these three Spheres of Perception—between a Physical Space of Reasoning, Logical Space of Reasoning and the Metaphysical, problems can evolve set in a universal ethic. This model is hallmarked by being non- restrictive in progressing our knowledge and epistemology to adjust to evolving needs. In such a model, workable solutions to current problems are placed in the three spheres defined then as: 1) The Physical Space of Reasoning. This sphere of pragmatic and realistic ideas can be networked and configured with things as they actually exist. Although even here concepts may reside ephemerally, as we now understand the ephemeral nature of knowledge, we understand the Physical Space of our reasoning as a refined locale for evolving truthful and pragmatic knowledge. This fits the Popperian proposal where tentative theories can reside, serving as workable but falsifiable solutions to a specific problem, persistently turning tentative theories and solutions into new problems. These problems then recycled back to the metaphysical or again returned to the Logical Sphere— defined below. With change as the only constant, and also as the vital drive for a perceptive evolution, the Physical Space of reasoning not only serves as our pragmatic and bias-reduced operating platform to a functional world but is vitally interlinked to the Logical Space of Reason and Metaphysical, while constantly adjusting itself to create a better world. This is the sphere that put a human on the moon, gave us electricity and transplanted a human heart. 2) The Logical Space of Reasoning is the subjective sphere lacking clarity and open to discourse but vital to our model to furnish the constant changing demands of an insatiable Physical Space of Reasoning and its ongoing need for workable ‘tentative’ theories. The logical space of reasoning is also where all concepts are filtered for reliability and value. This overworked logical space is where much argument and dispute arise due the equivocality it is set in. Much of political, religious and economic debate spend enormous effort and time in attempts to convince the Physical Space to accept subjective data without clear evidence or based on swayed values or false beliefs. The needlessly exploited Logical Space is also where attempts are constantly made to sway opinion and outcomes for personal gain or support and result in most conflict and suffering, we witness around us. 3) The Metaphysical, it can also be called the unknown and hold two vital elements in our model. One is that it constantly evolves with the other two spheres—as our knowledge changes so too does the metaphysical. The other is that this sphere acts as the vital drive for a perceptive evolution. Just think about it, if all was set and understood in a ‘theory of everything’ there would be no point to a perceptive interactive evolution. In fact, the very word evolution would cease to exist and cognition meaningless under one set theory ‘explaining everything’, unless this theory allows for change. And as soon as it does create allowance for change, so too does the theory remain untrue to its initial claim and falsifiable. Our model and concept as proposed here may have some future value in block-chaining together data from numerous Physical Spaces of Reasoning’s’, simultaneously evolving knowledge in various operating systems from healthcare to many other fields. Hallmarked for openness, interconnectivity and pliability in all spheres this model adopts principles from recent knowledge in evolutionary biology and the physical sciences. Operating in acceptance of constant change and placing our thought process into these three spheres, we have a method to reduce bias and stimulate clear thinking. The model creates scope for creating equal and open discourse and expand ideas and yet expose opinion to fact and logic to prove and disprove uncertainties argued in the more equivocal Logical space of reasoning. As a workable model able to scale down biases before harbored in the Physical Space of Reasoning, it serves to improve our ability to evolve our knowledge more truthfully, without disregard of the implausible and remain continuously active in our search for a better world. It is based on the same principles we see in evolutionary biology functioning on molecular level, where constant change is perceptive to the changes around an organism or cell, and it responds accordingly to formulate pragmatic outcomes from existing ones. Our model, likewise, driven to expand a network in escalation of complex and interconnected ideas, is able to assist an orderly, yet pliable, branching network set in an intrinsic awareness of pragmatic needs. Such a model equipped to confront constant change and entirely flexible can simultaneously evolve our morality and truthful knowledge to more responsively adjust to a progressive society and its changing needs. Utilizing this or similar pliable and adaptable models, we can escalate our morality and account for fairness on all levels in sharing our delicate environment, resources and knowledge with refreshed interest and universal moral understanding. This will reemphasize and include the importance and urgency of a respectful, trusting and functional global society — interlinked to equal access to clean environments, good education, resources and housing. Now becoming a global ethical concern and a goal directed duty in a Physical Space of Reasoning we can no longer say it is ‘not profitable’, as clearly now no profit can be measured against the demands of creating overall well-being in a respectful and civilized society in a universal ethic. Functioning in a Physical Space of reasoning, rather than confused in a strife torn Logical space of reasoning with all its egocentricism and biases, we are also no longer lost in the metaphysical but driven by it. Current business models and politicians can draw on such models to adapt outdated economic and belief systems, or else be left behind in the progress offered by a new universal evolution. This paradigm shift and the potential of creating new models can also set the background for a new era in healthcare where everyone can reap the benefits and have equal access to our evolutionary advances set in a cosmic awareness and universal ethic— with happy doctors returning patients to healthy environments. Educational facilities will need to progress beyond merely selling knowledge to students based on how the material world works with the vague promise of increasing their value in a society focused on reaping profits off ‘functional’ human capital. With knowledge constantly subject to change they need to persistently make students more aware of not possessing knowledge but ethically interconnecting it to a respectful society as part of combined universal cognitive effort. Cleverness will be set in a cosmic awareness and seen as how you can help others and the environment within a receptive society rather than outmaneuvering competitors with ‘privileged’ knowledge set in a war-like survivalist mentality. Perhaps a good start may be creating more awareness of this model and the emerging potential panpsychism as revealed by physicists. Current business models and false belief systems struggling to remain confident and again lagging well behind here, have serious concerns and catching up to do. The value of such a model set in its adaptability is unquestionable. The how to spread and introduce it then remains as our principal challenge and some suggestions will be proposed in the next section. Once ignited however, the concept and the importance of healthy environments and abolishing poverty will be re-energized. We may expect clean environments and high standard education to become more freely accessible with eradication of slums and unhealthy living conditions a goal directed global effort and concern— no longer hiding behind those unsubstantial words, ‘it is unprofitable’. Cost limitations will no longer be seen as a valid excuse by stronger governments and be far less controlled by corporations. Focused now on pragmatic and ethical outcomes, juggling an economy furnished already by debt will hardly seem a worthy pursuit. Sixty-nine trillion dollars as the world clock ticks at the time of writing this and the enormous profits made in interests every second by those furnishing this debt will be rejected as illogical, well before it enters the Physical Space of logically thinking in a thinking universe. Idealism is now no longer a worthy accusation. Set in this new wisdom, disregarding the well-being of other sentient beings and the environment, or hiding behind mythical beliefs or the directives of a cruel economic system, is also no longer forgivable merely as another form of ignorance. Now considered a moral crime, the new unanimous ethos is based on pragmatic outcomes and solutions, rather than quick fixes based on cost cutting and discourse around profitability swayed by selfish personal or corporate interests. In a new ethos of healthcare, the providers will operate with equality under a universal ethic addressing all levels of involvement in creating healthy minds, bodies and include the environment— treating life without price tags attached to it. Material value will be reduced and balanced against the value of human effort with healthy housing and environments readily available and affordable for all. A market driven economy competing for control over resources will be replaced by an economy focused on conscious awareness, open and pragmatic knowledge with equality in sharing of resources and knowledge. Set on goal directed outcomes to best serve everyone, egocentrism will be seen as both intellectual and moral immaturity and a crime against humanity and a futures society. HOW do we get from here to there and put our new models to work? There is a distinct difference between knowledge and wisdom and knowing and applying knowledge wisely. Knowledge changes all the time and can be manipulated, as we are well aware. Wisdom in turn is universal, aligned with universal truths and continuously adjusts to pragmatic needs. Wisdom with such an alliance, once set free is also indestructible. We can acquire and claim to possess knowledge and meaninglessly boast about it while it changes, but it is only once wisdom gained form knowledge is shared in a combined perceptive network that it becomes useful. We are subsequently dependent on our combined wisdom to improve our world. The first task then is to create public awareness and fuel concern amongst policymakers to open themselves to change and act wisely. This could place pressure on the main benefactors, secure in the profits reaped under current systems as those most likely to resist any change. Involving them in discussion groups where their value and need of adjusting to our combined destiny can be emphasized. On the opposite side it will involve urgent action to reduce the burden on developing minds. Currently anxiously measuring their self-worth in terms of material wealth while struggling to pay back student loans and find a niche a financial hierarchy, many faces precarious employment markets in an uncertain future, we also need input form here. These anxious young minds are in need of truthful knowledge unaffected by ‘market trends’, after all they are the inheritors of what presently appears to be a shaky future when viewed in economic terms and the new generators of future wisdom. With the current main benefactors of today’s wealth soon to be forgotten, all they can also realistically leave behind is, their wisdom and how they improved the world morally and environmentally as participants in a universal network, with zeros behind bank accounts as empty as the number and forgotten knowledge itself. We can establish some key points gathered from our discussion and model so far to initiate this enormous task ahead of us. A task every one of us sooner or later will inevitably become a part of in our search for morality and wisdom. CHANGE. We have never before had the potential to introduce new ideas so widely and openly to so many. There is also a palpable subconscious global need for change currently— this I have also personally experienced after many years of living and working in diverse countries. The concept of change and new ideas as a universal moral demand can now be widely broadcast, thanks to the internet. Social media, discussion groups and conferences, to name a few, can introduce new concepts. Once an idea is ignited as pragmatic and truthful with the promise of global social and ethical benefits, it can and will infiltrate our society on all levels, with the only resistance perhaps from old school economists and die-hard industrialists. Now exposed to inarguable wisdom even this resistance will eventually crumble. History offers us many examples where corruption and false beliefs or self-centered interests eventually fragmented under the truth and societies’ awareness of a need to change. Previously always preceded by much conflict and suffering, thankfully this time we are armed with more benign methods— knowledge, an internet of things and the option to interconnect more widely with shared concerns in shared understanding and new wisdom. NETWORKS Networking currently reminds us of business driven to sell more stuff. These business-driven and professional networks however have an inherent conflict in their design. They tend to build links based on narrowly set shared interests and benefits. Here again evolution can teach us much by showing the strength of building more diverse and open networks not driven by self-centered benefits and narrowly defined groups. In focusing on bias reduction, using our model and creating truthful and pragmatic links with ideas in the physical space of reasoning, such networks will be stronger and spread more rapidly. New developments in neurology can teach us much here about how networks branch out in support of even the weakest link, but this is best left as another topic covered elsewhere — a useful read is, Cognitive Development, Flavell John H; Miller Patricia H; Miller Prentice- Hall, 1993. Now using open networks reduced in biases and set in a universal ethic we can link diverse ‘Physical Spaces of Reasoning/s’ to interconnect ideas and concerns. These networks then stronger and more pliable than outdate concepts, reputed for suppressing and destroying links or forcing manipulated ideas from the Logical space into the Physical space, now also more likely to proximate itself to wisdom. INTERACTION People need to be healthy, happy and free to be the best they are designed to be. Young minds are especially vulnerable here, and by creating healthy and trustworthy social platforms to interact without pretense or inferiority we can build stronger networks and more confident young minds. Images promoted by marketing in search of profits again stands out here but so also does religious groups and educational facilities promoting prestigious education to those that can afford it, and in doing so leaving others behind. Sincere open interaction focused on truth and trust can revive a universal morality where cultural, religious and socioeconomic barriers are exposed as meaningless actions from a bygone era. Some social platforms have already emerged expressing open tolerance for differences. I came across one the other day while online promoting social gathering for ‘geeks’ (yes that’s what they proudly like to be called) to meet and interact. Renewed focus and funding can be placed on the advancement and development of diverse groups, emphasizing similarities and strengths and sharing differences rather than creating socioeconomic barriers or xenophobia. INTERCONNECTION Linking community via environmental enrichment programs is a critical part of a new combined effort. The current trend again is to create two separate worlds, even here on a level where we daily cross-exist. There is one world driven by substantial funding where environments are developed and enriched, constantly aiming to excel in creating beauty but open only to those who can afford to gain access. The other is a world slowly being left behind and ignored, existing as a dull pragmatic environment focused on only providing essential basic needs. Here environments are generally dull, neglected and serve only utilitarian needs, perhaps based on an elitist concept that only an ‘elected few can appreciate beauty and art’. We can all conjure images of how street art whimsically and with much criticism attempt to brighten up these drab environments. Meanwhile we continue to step around the growing numbers of homeless on the sidewalks of our cities. This while many artists, architects, social workers and designers of all sorts, creative and budding with ideas, sit around bowing to corporate or hoping to serve the needs of one of these big names. Obviously interconnecting and involving these artists and creative people in environmental enrichment programs have enormous employment benefits for governments. Less obvious perhaps is how it can also indirectly help to reduce the escalating levels of drug and alcohol abuse in Western societies. We have tasks and challenges all over and many books and articles to be written still on these important topics. However, now it is time to act and no longer talk or merely write articles, so often pushed to the bottom of search engines designed to favor those who please their anxieties or addictions for buying and selling. Another possibility then is to interconnect and create a network of under-employed artists and intellectuals to become part of environmental enrichment programs in less ‘glamorous’ areas. Linking with other networks likewise operating in their physical space of reasoning to other ideas to help those in need, and so the network can expand. When it comes to doctors and nurses, the mind-set change is a matter of continuing education to avoid a controlling business model in healthcare. Numerous avenues already exist here with some unsponsored conferences and more topics on controversies in healthcare and independent paper presentations already emerging. Stimulating thoughts around the model as suggested here as only one example can trigger thinking in changing the current ethos, growing new networks. Interconnecting professionals from different backgrounds have enormous potential, to stimulate new ideas but also with the potential to create new employment opportunities. I good idea is to place people form diverse professional backgrounds to work on problems and new developments instead of narrowly selected experts in a specific field only. Likewise, creating awareness in business circles of the need to change should be emphasized at professional gatherings. Introducing new ideas such as our model here on how to adapt in a rapidly changing arena can be introduced at conference gatherings and internal meetings. Stimulating minds in creating a new economic model emerging from a new template set in science and a universal ethic will at least appeal to some thinking business minds and get some heads turning. Recognition of the enormous potential this holds and all the new doors that may open up for a global society should be widely broadcast— internet, discussion groups and meetings are all potential avenues. The need for change can be hard to ignore once these new concepts take root in a new era. Recently we are returning to see the value of small independent businesses in creating more employment opportunities than under corporate control, where staff is shared, and jobs are subsequently vulnerable to impersonal decisions and exploitation of desperate markets. Under the current model the real-estate costs have also escalated out of control making it difficult if not impossible for small businesses to remain viable, so they sell out to corporations. We can thus assume interest from small business support groups and activists for affordable housing in attractive environments. Interconnecting on all such fronts and bringing people together (remember networking) can help business to sincerely and authentically realign itself and tackle these challenges currently left to the mercy of the larger corporations and those in power. Indeed, in recent years there have been calls from all over for the financial system to reinvent itself. Student groups such as the Post-Crash Economics Society, and Rethinking Economics triggered interest. Hardly well acknowledged and rather quietly in 2017 the United Kingdom based Economic and Social Research Council announced that it was setting up a network of experts from outside economics whose task it would be to ‘revolutionize’ the field. Since there have been countless books on the topic and rather subdued calling for involvement and intervention by non-economists. The need for change and experimenting with new ideas is becoming more ubiquitous and in need of sensible directives. Again, a goal directed universal ethic and pragmatic model can be valuable here. In 2008, the French physicist and hedge-fund manager Jean-Philippe Boucharde delivered a paper ‘Economics Needs a Scientific Revolution’ published in Nature magazine. In a recent update in 2017, he concluded in an update published in the Financial Times: that: ‘If we don’t embrace new methods of modeling the economy, we will be as blind to the next crisis as we were to the last one.’ And the next one could be really bad. As with all advances that affect existing social structures, resistance and ignorance will historically come mainly from the current benefactors who stand to lose most, simultaneously seeing little wrong with the current system. Paradigm shifts, and replacements of existing theories are easier accepted as part of progressive scientific process and universal morality than set in an economy clinging to outdated principles, here it is seen as a threat. With demands shifting under new wisdom clearly doing what is profitable may no longer suffice— unless we redefine what is profitable. Economics can no longer remain an outsider in an epistemology constantly evolving new paradigms and driving constant change and wisdom. A purpose driven branching network of escalating awareness infiltrating to those still complacent or ignorant of this need is more practical and urgent than ever before. The call for a pluralistic system reconciling current environmental concerns with social needs and for fair distribution of resources is now inherent in the thoughts of a quiet but expanding multitude in many disciplines. Most, sadly so, many are too involved with their own narrow fields or dependent on their income from current benefactors of this outdated system, to voice their hidden concerns. Anthropology, astrophysics, social science, physics, medicine, education, philosophy and evolutionary biology are only a few fields more realistically in touch with life and the human condition that can help introducing change more so than falling economic models. We clearly should draw on such knowledge in helping to create more pragmatic models to also urgently revolutionize our society and morality. Media will play a big role. We cannot claim to a be a free or democratic society if we exist under corporate controlled information and media outlets playing into the hands of a few stakeholders. The internet on the one hand preaching commitment to freedom of expression and on the other hand openly welcoming a cost-based hierarchy is also creating and easy avenue for control by those who can afford to increase visibility. Here we should prevent it from becoming no more than a new greed driven advertising and distasteful marketing tool. The same issue affects bookstores promoting books backed by marketing revenue rather than content and can only further blemish the already profit based only interests of promotors and restrict the natural flow of ideas and opinions. Change will revive interest in topics with more relevance and substance. With networking, awareness and action globally individual citizens can support this move away from mere profit seeking healthcare enterprises by identifying, selecting and supporting healthcare facilities renowned for their dedication to a universal morality. Involving doctors and practitioners in discussions around this topic could take many forms, from social group meetings to affiliations with medical and veterinary conferences. Renewed focus should be placed on the value of adaptable individualized style practices rather than corporate models and the lure of drug sale revenues. These practices will emerge, pragmatically network with community needs and be identified and gain support in the way they function and operate independently to heal, and relay updated knowledge, rather than sell brand name drugs. On ground level many doctors and veterinarians are already quietly aware of this rising need to now establish networks to furnish a growing demand. The vital key is again the introduction of a new and adaptable models through education on all levels. Conferences, social gatherings, media outlets, online discussions and publicly circulated articles to name a few. Set now in an internet of things reaching out to billions and forming networks has never been more within our means. Circulating promising new ideas for public opinion affecting a significant part of our daily existence becomes an achievable moral duty. The writing of this manuscript and the proposal of a model is a single example of only one action taken. With enough exposure in a growing network, millions can be reached, suffering reduced, and lives and environments enriched—and each of us become a valued link in a caring network. The now outdated technique of educating human capital for exploitation by rich industrialists and corporation masquerading behind a means of fertility control, clearly did not work. The end result is now witnessed as ongoing exploitation of both environment and resources set in a faltering morality where surplus human capital is seen as waste and left to their own devices. Gladly it can now be replaced by advancing an ethic where sharing of resources in an ethos of respect and harmonious coexistence can more humanely naturally set fertility in an environmentally interconnected society. Such a society sharing resources aware of the significance of their actions in a universally interconnected evolution. In sensing consonance, instead of disparity between the structure of molecules, the universe and our perception of matter (and each other), we are also proximate ourselves closer to both morality and beauty, including again the miracle of healing and assisting those in need. Thanks to new understanding in science, we are becoming more aware of the morality and approach needed for such interactions in an interconnected universe—driven to function ethically. Sensing a pattern of interconnections and congruous interchanges that result in workable truths, whether it is a melodious piece of music, prose or art or helping those in need, we can proximate ourselves better with universal truths and also goodness and the beauty of life on all levels. Now more interconnected, open to each other and universal truths we are much better equipped to explore our infinite universe. Liberated by interactive and openly interconnected Spheres of Perception and forced by the urgency of having to sensibly address pressing global threats, we simple have no more excuses to delay any action. Healthcare as the guardians of our physical and mental health will, as has often been the case, be principal participants in leading the revolutionary change — perhaps the last of a barbaric past before sharing a more moral period in our new era of universal evolution. Greetings from China Theo Holtzhausen

  • An evolution that favours moral action more than mere survival and procreation. (5 minute read)

    We should all ask ourselves, is our survival and progress not dependent on an interlinked and progressive morality (more so than mere survival and reproductive strategies)? ‘The progressive development of the animal kingdom, and especially of mankind, is favoured much more by mutual support than by mutual struggle’. Peter Kropotkin, in Mutual Aid a factor of Evolution, 1902 Much has changed in the last two years and most certainly since Kropotkin published his work in 1902. Change seen, not only due to the Covid outbreak but also due to advances in the biomedical sciences, society, its values and expectations. We are today thanks to a progressive science more than ever at the mercy of our DNA (a single strand of RNA emphasized this fact in 2020 with lasting effect), how we assimilate and deploy such new understanding is entirely up to us. We are but a species in an evolution driven by its quest for multiplication and procreation. We also know that we live in an interconnected world, where distrust and misinformation have become unwelcome parts of life and pose a significant challenge to both our current and future wellbeing. In genetics and biochemistry rapid progress in recent decades has led to a greater understanding of the chemical activity of proteins and their relation to the information stored in cellular DNA. Scientists were traditionally encouraged to develop an interpretation of biology that attempted simple solutions to the daunting convolutedness of nature. They were drawn to see living organisms as biochemical computers executing a set molecular program. They viewed that program as an algorithm encoded in genes and materialised by proteins. Within this blueprint-based framework, medical researchers focused on identifying the rogue genes and proteins that caused diseases, and on finding drugs to deactivate them. The problem with this reductionist approach was, and still in some instances is, that it doesn’t consider how biological cells, organs, tumours and organisms entangle themselves with their environment, combining and recombining and collectively using their structures at every scale (from the nanometre to the metre and beyond) to keep on living, evolving and surviving in environments that are equally variable. Credit is due, the reductionist approach to treating disease was justifiably fuelled by decades of revolutionary drug discoveries – antibiotics, chemotherapy and other ‘miracle drugs’ – that led to steep improvements in life expectancy. But this 'comfort-zone' in the chemical broth we created unexpectedly spilled over into the environment in the form of byproducts, pesticides and extra waste— bringing along with it a new list of ailments, seen as an escalating incidence of cancer, allergies and cardiovascular diseases. This century has seen a sharp decline in the number of effective new medicines produced. Literature states that between the years 2002 and 2014, a total of 71 new cancer drugs appeared, of which only 30 – found to prolong life in patients with solid tumours by an average of 2.1 months, compared with older drugs – have gained approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. The costly and largely ineffective trial-and-error methods used to identify new drugs, and the escalating complexity and difficulty of conducting clinical trials, are partly responsible for this downward turn. Undaunted by the dogmatism in molecular biology, many scientists in recent years started questioning the reductionist models of life and disease while turning their attention to how it genetically interacts in different environments. The capacity of biological organisms to evolve resistance to new treatments serves as one example of the inadequacy of a mere reductionist approach as one of the most significant new public health concerns we face. We now realise the chemically ridden world around us, in a climate that is also rapidly changing, will continue to complicate and plague any reductionist model ,inevitably now understood as driven by a more mobile DNA. Antibiotic resistance, as an example, has become one of the biggest public health threats to confront medical scientists, veterinarians and doctors; meanwhile, the ability of cancer cells to build defences against chemotherapy has stalled some overambitious pharmacologists searching for cancer cures. Bacteria and cancers on microbiological level are teaching us the same lesson that we are learning in other aspects of our relationship with nature. Clearly and almost to be expected, an evolutionary based life resists a reductionist approach. It relentlessly bounces back with complex behaviours that thwart our optimistic strategies to dominate it. Proteins are the building blocks of life. In nature, they result from the careful and deterministic folding of molecular strings consisting of combinations of 20 different units (there are 22 essential amino acids). They can take on any imaginable shape and function at the nanoscale. In fact, scientists still don’t know how many different proteins are in our bodies (perhaps it is unknowable), since our cells could have the capacity to create, modify and evolve proteins as and when they are needed. Proteins work as light detectors in our eyes, electrical switches in our neurons, in our muscles, and act as rotary nanomotors to catalyse chemical reactions. They are responsible for detecting and reacting to the signals, forces and information from the environment in which an organism resides and interconnect and for creating the structures that allow movement. The extraction of energy from food (sunlight to chlorophyll) or the destruction of pathogens are all protein dependent. No human-made artificial technology can dream of such capacities. We can however try to learn how life does it, and continuously progress in in our understanding while responsibly employing this new knowledge in a responsible manner. One of the essential features of all life is having some method or methods to be perceptive of change around it and relay such input to its DNA. It must constantly prepare and be able to function while facing uncertainties and unknowns in challenging environments. It has to have a memory of what it learnt in the past that can serve across generations. Evolution, and all the chemistry it is made up of interact and is witnessed in emerging science as having this ability, and it does so in a principled manner. Without biases. Life (evolution) on all levels, interconnect and perceive information from its surroundings to evolve a reliable physical sphere of existence—not only to survive but to better interconnect, in full regard of even its smallest components. It must gather reliable information to prepare for unknowns in an uncertain future based on its perceptions of a changeable and challenging environments. It is when these interactive spheres get hijacked by unreliable information or biases that we get confused and face a precarious future. We can only remedy this when, and if, we become perceptive of and have access to reliable information. The more progressive our perceptions and this information and knowledge become, the more important the value of fairness and mutual support also become. It is by harmonising and operating wisely in reliably interconnected spheres of perception without biases in any of the three spheres (physical reality, uncertainty and the unknown) that we can confidently prepare ourselves for the future. And it can only be when we measure our progress in terms of the morality of our actions in this newly gained knowledge, that a much better world will become a reality for all of us. Theodore Holtzhausen, author of Spheres of Perception Blog article, 10/4/2021

  • Time to consider the rights of plants.

    https://aeon.co/essays/beyond-the-animal-brain-plants-have-cognitive-capacities-too?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=87a007a27a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_03_29_02_58&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-87a007a27a-70379153 This is a share, link: is a philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Listen here Brought to you by Curio, an Aeon partner 3,000 words Edited by Sally Davies SYNDICATE THIS ESSAYTweet13,067 34 CommentsAeon for Friends Find out more At first glance, the Cornish mallow (Lavatera cretica) is little more than an unprepossessing weed. It has pinkish flowers and broad, flat leaves that track sunlight throughout the day. However, it’s what the mallow does at night that has propelled this humble plant into the scientific spotlight. Hours before the dawn, it springs into action, turning its leaves to face the anticipated direction of the sunrise. The mallow seems to remember where and when the Sun has come up on previous days, and acts to make sure it can gather as much light energy as possible each morning. When scientists try to confuse mallows in their laboratories by swapping the location of the light source, the plants simply learn the new orientation. What does it even mean to say that a mallow can learn and remember the location of the sunrise? The idea that plants can behave intelligently, let alone learn or form memories, was a fringe notion until quite recently. Memories are thought to be so fundamentally cognitive that some theorists argue that they’re a necessary and sufficient marker of whether an organism can do the most basic kinds of thinking. Surely memory requires a brain, and plants lack even the rudimentary nervous systems of bugs and worms. However, over the past decade or so this view has been forcefully challenged. The mallow isn’t an anomaly. Plants are not simply organic, passive automata. We now know that they can sense and integrate information about dozens of different environmental variables, and that they use this knowledge to guide flexible, adaptive behaviour. For example, plants can recognise whether nearby plants are kin or unrelated, and adjust their foraging strategies accordingly. The flower Impatiens pallida, also known as pale jewelweed, is one of several species that tends to devote a greater share of resources to growing leaves rather than roots when put with strangers – a tactic apparently geared towards competing for sunlight, an imperative that is diminished when you are growing next to your siblings. Plants also mount complex, targeted defences in response to recognising specific predators. The small, flowering Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale or mouse-ear cress, can detect the vibrations caused by caterpillars munching on it and so release oils and chemicals to repel the insects. Plants also communicate with one another and other organisms, such as parasites and microbes, using a variety of channels – including ‘mycorrhizal networks’ of fungus that link up the root systems of multiple plants, like some kind of subterranean internet. Perhaps it’s not really so surprising, then, that plants learn and use memories for prediction and decision-making. Sign up to Aeon newsletter Updates on everything new at Aeon. See our newsletter privacy policy here What does learning and memory involve for a plant? An example that’s front and centre of the debate is vernalisation, a process in which certain plants must be exposed to the cold before they can flower in the spring. The ‘memory of winter’ is what helps plants to distinguish between spring (when pollinators, such as bees, are busy) and autumn (when they are not, and when the decision to flower at the wrong time of year could be reproductively disastrous). In the biologists’ favourite experimental plant, A thaliana, a gene called FLC produces a chemical that stops its little white blooms from opening. However, when the plant is exposed to a long winter, the by-products of other genes measure the length of time it has been cold, and close down or repress the FLC in an increasing number of cells as the cold persists. When spring comes and the days start to lengthen, the plant, primed by the cold to have low FLC, can now flower. But to be effective, the anti-FLC mechanism needs an extended chilly spell, rather than shorter periods of fluctuating temperatures. This involves what’s called epigenetic memory. Even after vernalised plants are returned to warm conditions, FLC is kept low via the remodelling of what are called chromatin marks. These are proteins and small chemical groups that attach to DNA within cells and influence gene activity. Chromatin remodelling can even be transmitted to subsequent generations of divided cells, such that these later produced cells ‘remember’ past winters. If the cold period has been long enough, plants with some cells that never went through a cold period can still flower in spring, because the chromatin modification continues to inhibit the action of FLC. But is this really memory? Plant scientists who study ‘epigenetic memory’ will be the first to admit that it’s fundamentally different from the sort of thing studied by cognitive scientists. Is this use of language just metaphorical shorthand, bridging the gap between the familiar world of memory and the unfamiliar domain of epigenetics? Or do the similarities between cellular changes and organism-level memories reveal something deeper about what memory really is? Both epigenetic and ‘brainy’ memories have one thing in common: a persistent change in the behaviour or state of a system, caused by an environmental stimulus that’s no longer present. Yet this description seems too broad, since it would also capture processes such as tissue damage, wounding or metabolic changes. Perhaps the interesting question isn’t really whether or not memories are needed for cognition, but rather which types of memories indicate the existence of underlying cognitive processes, and whether these processes exist in plants. In other words, rather than looking at ‘memory’ itself, it might be better to examine the more foundational question of how memories are acquired, formed or learned. When the plant was dropped from a height, it learned that this was harmless and didn’t demand a folding response ‘The plants remember,’ said the behavioural ecologist Monica Gagliano in a recent radio interview, ‘they know exactly what’s going on.’ Gagliano is a researcher at the University of Western Australia, who studies plants by applying behavioural learning techniques developed for animals. She reasons that if plants can produce the results that lead us to believe other organisms can learn and remember, we should similarly conclude that plants share these cognitive capacities. One form of learning that’s been studied extensively is habituation, in which creatures exposed to an unexpected but harmless stimulus (a noise, a flash of light) will have a cautionary response that slowly diminishes over time. Think of entering a room with a humming refrigerator: it’s initially annoying, but usually you’ll get used to it and perhaps not even notice after a while. True habituation is stimulus-specific, so with the introduction of a different and potentially dangerous stimulus, the animal will be re-triggered. Even in a humming room, you will probably startle at the sound of a loud bang. This is called dishabituation, and distinguishes genuine learning from other kinds of change, such as fatigue. In 2014, Gagliano and her colleagues tested the learning capacities of a little plant called Mimosa pudica, a creeping annual also known as touch-me-not. Its name comes from the way its leaves snap shut defensively in response to a threat. When Gagliano and her colleagues dropped M pudica from a height (something the plant would never have encountered in its evolutionary history), the plants learned that this was harmless and didn’t demand a folding response. However, they maintained responsiveness when shaken suddenly. Moreover, the researchers found that M pudica’s habitation was also context-sensitive. The plants learnt faster in low-lit environments, where it was more costly to close their leaves because of the scarcity of light and the attendant need to conserve energy. (Gagliano’s research group was not the first to apply behavioural learning approaches to plants such as M pudica, but earlier studies were not always well-controlled so findings were inconsistent.) But what about more complex learning? Most animals are also capable of conditioned or associative learning, in which they figure out that two stimuli tend to go hand in hand. This is what allows you to train your dog to come when you whistle, since the dog comes to associate that behaviour with treats or affection. In another study, published in 2016, Gagliano and colleagues tested whether Pisum sativum, or the garden pea, could link the movement of air with the availability of light. They placed seedlings at the base of a Y-maze, to be buffeted by air coming from only one of the forks – the brighter one. The plants were then allowed to grow into either fork of the Y-maze, to test whether they had learned the association. The results were positive – showing that the plants learned the conditioned response in a situationally relevant manner. The evidence is mounting that plants share some of the treasured learning capacities of animals. Why has it taken so long to figure this out? We can start to understand the causes by running a little experiment. Take a look at this image. What does it depict? Figure 1: ‘Leaping Laelaps’ (1897) by Charles Robert Knight. Courtesy Wikipedia.Most people will respond either by naming the general class of animals present (‘dinosaurs’) and what they are doing (‘fighting’, ‘jumping’), or if they are dinosaur fans, by identifying the specific animals (‘genus Dryptosaurus’). Rarely will the mosses, grasses, shrubs and trees in the picture get a mention – at most they might be referred to as the background or setting to the main event, which comprises the animals present ‘in a field’. In 1999, the biology educators James Wandersee and Elisabeth Schussler called this phenomenon plant blindness – a tendency to overlook plant capacities, behaviour and the unique and active environmental roles that they play. We treat them as part of the background, not as active agents in an ecosystem. Some reasons for plant blindness are historical – philosophical hangovers from long-dismantled paradigms that continue to infect our thinking about the natural world. Many researchers still write under the influence of Aristotle’s influential notion of the scala naturae, a ladder of life, with plants at the bottom of the hierarchy of capacity and value, and Man at the peak. Aristotle emphasised the fundamental conceptual divide between immobile, insensitive plant life, and the active, sensory realm of animals. For him, the divide between animals and humankind was just as stark; he didn’t think animals thought, in any meaningful way. After the reintroduction of such ideas into Western European education in the early 1200s and throughout the Renaissance, Aristotelean thinking has remained remarkably persistent. It’s often adaptive for humans to treat plants as object-like, or simply filter them out Today, we might call this systematic bias against non-animals zoochauvinism. It’s well-documented in the education system, in biology textbooks, in publication trends, and media representation. Furthermore, children growing up in cities tend to lack exposure to plants through interactive observation, plant care, and a situated plant appreciation and knowledge by acquaintance. Particularities of the way our bodies work – our perceptual, attentional and cognitive systems – contribute to plant blindness and biases. Plants don’t usually jump out at us suddenly, present an imminent threat, or behave in ways that obviously impact upon us. Empirical findings show that they aren’t detected as often as animals, they don’t capture our attention as quickly, and we forget them more readily than animals. It’s often adaptive to treat them as object-like, or simply filter them out. Furthermore, plant behaviour frequently involves chemical and structural changes that are simply too small, too fast or too slow for us to perceive without equipment. As we are animals ourselves, it’s also easier for us to recognise animal-like behaviour as behaviour. Recent findings in robotics indicate that human participants are more likely to attribute properties such as emotion, intentionality and behaviour to systems when those systems conform to animal or human-like behaviour. It seems that, when we’re deciding whether to interpret behaviour as intelligent, we rely on anthropomorphic prototypes. This helps to explain our intuitive reluctance to attribute cognitive capacities to plants. But perhaps prejudice is not the only reason that plant cognition has been dismissed. Some theorists worry that concepts such as ‘plant memory’ are nothing but obfuscating metaphors. When we try to apply cognitive theory to plants in a less vague way, they say, it seems that plants are doing something quite unlike animals. Plant mechanisms are complex and fascinating, they agree, but not cognitive. There’s a concern that we’re defining memory so broadly as to be meaningless, or that things such as habituation are not, in themselves, cognitive mechanisms. One way of probing the meaning of cognition is to consider whether a system trades in representations. Generally, representations are states that are about other things, and can stand in for those things. A set of coloured lines can form a picture representing a cat, as does the word ‘cat’ on this page. States of the brain are also generally taken to represent parts of our environment, and so to enable us to navigate the world around us. When things go awry with our representations, we might represent things that aren’t there at all, such as when we hallucinate. Less drastically, sometimes we get things slightly wrong, or misrepresent, parts of the world. I might mishear lyrics in amusing ways (sometimes called ‘mondegreens’), or startle violently thinking that a spider is crawling on my arm, when it’s only a fly. The capacity to get it wrong in this way, to misrepresent something, is a good indication that a system is using information-laden representations to navigate the world; that is, that it’s a cognitive system. When we create memories, arguably we retain of some of this represented information for later use ‘offline’. The philosopher Francisco Calvo Garzón at the University of Murcia in Spain has argued that, for a physical state or mechanism to be representational, it must ‘stand for things or events that are temporarily unavailable’. The capacity for representations to stand in for something that’s not there, he claims, is the reason that memory is taken to be the mark of cognition. Unless it can operate offline, a state or mechanism is not genuinely cognitive. The mallow learns a new location when plant physiologists mess with its ‘head’ by changing the light’s direction On the other hand, some theorists allow that certain representations can only operate ‘online’ – that is, they represent and track parts of the environment in real time. The mallow’s nocturnal capacity to predict where the Sun will rise, before it even appears, seems to involve ‘offline’ representations; other heliotropic plants, which track the Sun only while it is moving across the sky, arguably involve a kind of ‘online’ representation. Organisms that use only such online representation, theorists say, might still be cognitive. But offline processes and memory provide stronger evidence that organisms are not just responding reflexively to their immediate environment. This is particularly important for establishing claims about organisms that we are not intuitively inclined to think are cognitive – such as plants. Is there evidence that plants do represent and store information about their environment for later use? During the day, the mallow uses motor tissue at the base of its stalks to turn its leaves towards the Sun, a process that’s actively controlled by changes in water pressure inside the plant (called turgor). The magnitude and direction of the sunlight is encoded in light-sensitive tissue, spread over the mallow’s geometric arrangement of leaf veins, and stored overnight. The plant also tracks information about the cycle of day and night via its internal circadian clocks, which are sensitive to environmental cues that signal dawn and dusk. Overnight, using information from all these sources, the mallow can predict where and when the Sun will rise the next day. It might not have concepts such as ‘the Sun’ or ‘sunrise’, but it stores information about the light vector and day/night cycles that allows it to reorient its leaves before dawn so that their surfaces face the Sun as it climbs in the sky. This also allows it to re-learn a new location when plant physiologists mess with its ‘head’ by changing the direction of the light source. When the plants are shut in the dark, the anticipatory mechanism also works offline for a few days. Like other foraging strategies, this is about optimising available resources – in this case, sunlight. Does this mechanism count as a ‘representation’ – standing in for parts of the world that are relevant to the plant’s behaviour? Yes, in my view. Just as neuroscientists try to uncover the mechanisms in nervous systems in order to understand the operation of memory in animals, plant research is beginning to unravel the memory substrates that allow plants to store and access information, and use that memory to guide behaviour. Plants are a diverse and flexible group of organisms whose extraordinary capacities we are only just beginning to understand. Once we expand the vista of our curiosity beyond animal and even plant kingdoms – to look at fungi, bacteria, protozoa – we might be surprised to find that many of these organisms share many of the same basic behavioural strategies and principles as us, including the capacity for kinds of learning and memory. To make effective progress, we need to pay careful attention to plant mechanisms. We need to be clear about when, how and why we are using metaphor. We need to be precise about our theoretical claims. And where the evidence points in a direction, even when it is away from common consensus, we need to boldly follow where it leads. These research programmes are still in their infancy, but they will no doubt continue to lead to new discoveries that challenge and expand human perspectives on plants, blurring some of the traditional boundaries that separated the plant and animal realms. Of course, it’s a stretch of the imagination to try to think about what thinking might even mean for these organisms, lacking as they do the brain(mind)/body(motor) divide. However, by pushing ourselves, we might end up expanding the concepts – such as ‘memory’, ‘learning’ and ‘thought’ – that initially motivated our enquiry. Having done so, we see that in many cases, talk of plant learning and memory is not just metaphorical, but also matter-of-fact. Next time you stumble upon a kerbside mallow bobbing in the sunlight, take a moment to look at it with new eyes, and to appreciate the window this little weed provides into the extraordinary cognitive capacities of plants.

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  • Help needed, we are creating a better future

    ABOUT ​ A significant paradigm shift occurred in recent years in our understanding of how a genetic life emerged on Earth. Simultaneously, in astrophysics the concept of our place in the universe has been redefined. It created a much different picture of how life interconnects to the environment and our place and purpose in it. ​ Spilling into healthcare and ecology, we are able to now better heal, nurture and fine-tune our DNA by caring for our epigenome (the network of chemical compounds surrounding DNA that can modify the genome). This created better understanding of how we interconnect with our world and environment. We are standing on the edge of an era of genomics and cyborgs... in a yet unimagined new world. ​ Redefining a living interconnected network perceptive of change on all levels , we need to increase awareness of how healthcare and social development programs must be based on open, yet principled, interactions to face the future. From cellular level to complex social networks this demands improving and enriching our environments and abolishing poverty and inequality. It emphasises the value of organisations contributing to preventing disease by eliminating stress caused by mental and toxic environmental factors and corruption. Above all it must operate under a sound, reliable and universally acceptable ethic. By seeing the genome as part of a living and network, we promote better understanding of this consonance. Our work has no cultural, racial, species or social boundaries, or any religious or institutionalised affiliations. We are committed to reduce suffering, fight corruption, reduce poverty and promote moral conduct, equality and healthy living. We want to ensure all the advances of new technology and genitc medicine will reach an interconnected global community —fairly. ​ CONTACT US epigenome perceptive of change on all levels {Spheres of Perception is an affiliation of Sensible Gene Ltd New Zealand}

  • Spheres of Perception

    NEW IDEAS CHANGE THE WORLD HEALTH & GENOMICS COMMUNITY ISSUES ENVIRONMENT & CLIMATE CHANGE OUR MISSION ENDORSEMENTS Latest Blog Articles Join our forums, it's free Please NOTE, this site is entirely dedicated to find workable solutions for harmonious social change, any extremist, political or religious opinions will be blocked and deleted. EPIDEMIC UPDATES... Spheres of Perception is Affiliated to Sensible Gene Ltd New Zealand Privacy and Terms of Use

  • Links and Updates | SpheresofPerceptionSpheres of PerceptionTheodore HoltzhausenLinks and Updates Spheres of Perception

    At first glance, the Cornish mallow (Lavatera cretica) is little more than an unprepossessing weed. It has pinkish flowers and broad, flat leaves that track sunlight throughout the day. However, it’s what the mallow does at night that has propelled this humble plant into the scientific spotlight. Hours before the dawn, it springs into action, turning its leaves to face the anticipated direction of the sunrise. The mallow seems to remember where and when the Sun has come up on previous days, and acts to make sure it can gather as much light energy as possible each morning. When scientists try to confuse mallows in their laboratories by swapping the location of the light source, the plants simply learn the new orientation. What does it even mean to say that a mallow can learn and remember the location of the sunrise? The idea that plants can behave intelligently, let alone learn or form memories, was a fringe notion until quite recently. Memories are thought to be so fundamentally cognitive that some theorists that they’re a necessary and sufficient of whether an organism can do the most basic kinds of thinking. Surely memory requires a brain, and plants lack even the rudimentary nervous systems of bugs and worms. argue marker However, over the past decade or so this view has been forcefully challenged. The mallow isn’t an anomaly. Plants are not simply organic, passive automata. We now know that they can sense and integrate information about dozens of different environmental variables, and that they use this knowledge to guide flexible, adaptive behaviour. For example, plants can whether nearby plants are kin or unrelated, and adjust their foraging strategies accordingly. The flower Impatiens pallida, also known as pale jewelweed, is one of several species that tends to devote a greater share of resources to growing leaves rather than roots when put with strangers – a tactic apparently geared towards competing for sunlight, an imperative that is diminished when you are growing next to your siblings. Plants also mount complex, targeted in response to recognising . The small, flowering Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale or mouse-ear cress, can detect the vibrations caused by caterpillars munching on it and so release oils and chemicals to repel the insects. recognise defences specific predators Plants also communicate with one another and , such as parasites and microbes, using a variety of – including ‘mycorrhizal networks’ of fungus that link up the root systems of multiple plants, like some kind of subterranean internet. Perhaps it’s not really so surprising, then, that plants learn and use memories for prediction and decision-making. other organisms channels Sign up to our newsletter Updates on everything new at Aeon. DailyWeekly See our newsletter privacy policy here What does learning and memory involve for a plant? An example that’s front and centre of the debate is vernalisation, a process in which certain plants must be exposed to the cold before they can flower in the spring. The ‘memory of winter’ is what helps plants to distinguish between spring (when pollinators, such as bees, are busy) and autumn (when they are not, and when the decision to flower at the wrong time of year could be reproductively disastrous). In the biologists’ favourite experimental plant, A thaliana, a gene called FLC produces a chemical that stops its little white blooms from opening. However, when the plant is exposed to a long winter, the by-products of other genes measure the length of time it has been cold, and close down or repress the FLC in an increasing number of cells as the cold persists. When spring comes and the days start to lengthen, the plant, primed by the cold to have low FLC, can now flower. But to be effective, the anti-FLC mechanism needs an extended chilly spell, rather than shorter periods of fluctuating temperatures. This involves what’s called epigenetic memory. Even after vernalised plants are returned to warm conditions, FLC is kept low via the remodelling of what are called chromatin marks. These are proteins and small chemical groups that attach to DNA within cells and influence gene activity. Chromatin remodelling can even be transmitted to subsequent generations of divided cells, such that these later produced cells ‘remember’ past winters. If the cold period has been long enough, plants with some cells that never went through a cold period can still flower in spring, because the chromatin modification continues to inhibit the action of FLC. But is this really memory? Plant scientists who study ‘epigenetic memory’ will be the first to admit that it’s fundamentally different from the sort of thing studied by cognitive scientists. Is this use of language just metaphorical shorthand, bridging the gap between the familiar world of memory and the unfamiliar domain of epigenetics? Or do the similarities between cellular changes and organism-level memories reveal something deeper about what memory really is? Both epigenetic and ‘brainy’ memories have one thing in common: a persistent change in the behaviour or state of a system, caused by an environmental stimulus that’s no longer present. Yet this description seems too broad, since it would also capture processes such as tissue damage, wounding or metabolic changes. Perhaps the interesting question isn’t really whether or not memories are needed for cognition, but rather which types of memories indicate the existence of underlying cognitive processes, and whether these processes exist in plants. In other words, rather than looking at ‘memory’ itself, it might be better to examine the more foundational question of how memories are acquired, formed or learned. When the plant was dropped from a height, it learned that this was harmless and didn’t demand a folding response ‘The plants remember,’ said the behavioural ecologist Monica Gagliano in a recent radio , ‘they know exactly what’s going on.’ Gagliano is a researcher at the University of Western Australia, who studies plants by applying behavioural learning techniques developed for animals. She reasons that if plants can produce the results that lead us to believe other organisms can learn and remember, we should similarly conclude that plants share these cognitive capacities. One form of learning that’s been studied extensively is habituation, in which creatures exposed to an unexpected but harmless stimulus (a noise, a flash of light) will have a cautionary response that slowly diminishes over time. Think of entering a room with a humming refrigerator: it’s initially annoying, but usually you’ll get used to it and perhaps not even notice after a while. True habituation is stimulus-specific, so with the introduction of a different and potentially dangerous stimulus, the animal will be re-triggered. Even in a humming room, you will probably startle at the sound of a loud bang. This is called dishabituation, and distinguishes genuine learning from other kinds of change, such as fatigue. interview In 2014, Gagliano and her colleagues the learning capacities of a little plant called Mimosa pudica, a creeping annual also known as touch-me-not. Its name comes from the way its leaves snap shut defensively in response to a threat. When Gagliano and her colleagues dropped M pudica from a height (something the plant would never have encountered in its evolutionary history), the plants learned that this was harmless and didn’t demand a folding response. However, they maintained responsiveness when shaken suddenly. Moreover, the researchers found that M pudica’s habitation was also context-sensitive. The plants learnt faster in low-lit environments, where it was more costly to close their leaves because of the scarcity of light and the attendant need to conserve energy. (Gagliano’s research group was not the first to apply behavioural learning to plants such as M pudica, but earlier studies were not always well-controlled so findings were inconsistent.) tested approaches But what about more complex learning? Most animals are also capable of conditioned or associative learning, in which they figure out that two stimuli tend to go hand in hand. This is what allows you to train your dog to come when you whistle, since the dog comes to associate that behaviour with treats or affection. In another , published in 2016, Gagliano and colleagues tested whether Pisum sativum, or the garden pea, could link the movement of air with the availability of light. They placed seedlings at the base of a Y-maze, to be buffeted by air coming from only one of the forks – the brighter one. The plants were then allowed to grow into either fork of the Y-maze, to test whether they had learned the association. The results were positive – showing that the plants learned the conditioned response in a situationally relevant manner. study The evidence is mounting that plants share some of the treasured learning capacities of animals. Why has it taken so long to figure this out? We can start to understand the causes by running a little experiment. Take a look at this image. What does it depict? Figure 1: ‘Leaping Laelaps’ (1897) by Charles Robert Knight. Courtesy Wikipedia. Most people will respond either by naming the general class of animals present (‘dinosaurs’) and what they are doing (‘fighting’, ‘jumping’), or if they are dinosaur fans, by identifying the specific animals (‘genus Dryptosaurus’). Rarely will the mosses, grasses, shrubs and trees in the picture get a mention – at most they might be referred to as the background or setting to the main event, which comprises the animals present ‘in a field’. In 1999, the biology educators James Wandersee and Elisabeth Schussler this phenomenon plant blindness – a tendency to overlook plant capacities, behaviour and the unique and active environmental roles that they play. We treat them as part of the background, not as active agents in an ecosystem. called Some reasons for plant blindness are historical – philosophical hangovers from long-dismantled paradigms that continue to infect our thinking about the natural world. Many researchers still write under the influence of Aristotle’s influential notion of the scala naturae, a ladder of life, with plants at the bottom of the hierarchy of capacity and value, and Man at the peak. Aristotle emphasised the fundamental conceptual divide between immobile, insensitive plant life, and the active, sensory realm of animals. For him, the divide between animals and humankind was just as stark; he didn’t think animals thought, in any meaningful way. After the reintroduction of such ideas into Western European education in the early 1200s and throughout the Renaissance, Aristotelean thinking has remained remarkably persistent. It’s often adaptive for humans to treat plants as object-like, or simply filter them out Today, we might call this systematic bias against non-animals zoochauvinism. It’s well-documented in the , in biology , in publication trends, and media representation. Furthermore, children growing up in cities tend to to plants through interactive observation, plant care, and a situated plant appreciation and knowledge by acquaintance. education system textbooks lack exposure Particularities of the way our bodies work – our perceptual, attentional and cognitive systems – contribute to plant blindness and biases. Plants don’t usually jump out at us suddenly, present an imminent threat, or behave in ways that obviously impact upon us. show that they aren’t detected as often as animals, they don’t capture our attention as quickly, and we forget them more readily than animals. It’s often adaptive to treat them as object-like, or simply filter them out. Furthermore, frequently involves chemical and structural changes that are simply too small, too fast or too slow for us to perceive without equipment. Empirical findings plant behaviour As we are animals ourselves, it’s also easier for us to recognise animal-like behaviour as behaviour. Recent findings in robotics indicate that human participants are more likely to attribute properties such as , intentionality and to systems when those systems conform to or human-like behaviour. It seems that, when we’re deciding whether to interpret behaviour as intelligent, we rely on anthropomorphic prototypes. This helps to explain our intuitive reluctance to attribute cognitive capacities to plants. emotion behaviour animal But perhaps prejudice is not the only reason that plant cognition has been dismissed. Some theorists worry that concepts such as ‘plant memory’ are nothing but . When we try to apply cognitive theory to plants in a less vague way, they say, it seems that plants are doing something quite unlike animals. Plant mechanisms are complex and fascinating, they agree, but not cognitive. There’s a concern that we’re defining memory so broadly as to be meaningless, or that things such as habituation are not, in themselves, cognitive mechanisms. obfuscating metaphors One way of probing the meaning of cognition is to consider whether a system trades in representations. Generally, representations are states that are about other things, and can stand in for those things. A set of coloured lines can form a picture representing a cat, as does the word ‘cat’ on this page. States of the brain are also generally taken to represent parts of our environment, and so to enable us to navigate the world around us. When things go awry with our representations, we might represent things that aren’t there at all, such as when we hallucinate. Less drastically, sometimes we get things slightly wrong, or misrepresent, parts of the world. I might mishear lyrics in amusing ways (sometimes called ‘mondegreens’), or startle violently thinking that a spider is crawling on my arm, when it’s only a fly. The capacity to get it wrong in this way, to misrepresent something, is a good indication that a system is using information-laden representations to navigate the world; that is, that it’s a cognitive system. When we create memories, arguably we retain of some of this represented information for later use ‘offline’. The philosopher Francisco Calvo Garzón at the University of Murcia in Spain has that, for a physical state or mechanism to be representational, it must ‘stand for things or events that are temporarily unavailable’. The capacity for representations to stand in for something that’s not there, he claims, is the reason that memory is taken to be the mark of cognition. Unless it can operate offline, a state or mechanism is not genuinely cognitive. argued The mallow learns a new location when plant physiologists mess with its ‘head’ by changing the light’s direction On the other hand, some theorists allow that certain representations can only operate ‘online’ – that is, they represent and track parts of the environment in real time. The mallow’s nocturnal capacity to predict where the Sun will rise, before it even appears, seems to involve ‘offline’ representations; other heliotropic plants, which track the Sun only while it is moving across the sky, arguably involve a kind of ‘online’ representation. Organisms that use only such online representation, theorists say, might still be cognitive. But offline processes and memory provide stronger evidence that organisms are not just responding reflexively to their immediate environment. This is particularly important for establishing claims about organisms that we are not intuitively inclined to think are cognitive – such as plants. Is there evidence that plants do represent and store information about their environment for later use? During the day, the uses motor tissue at the base of its stalks to turn its leaves towards the Sun, a process that’s actively controlled by changes in water pressure inside the plant (called turgor). The magnitude and direction of the sunlight is encoded in light-sensitive tissue, spread over the mallow’s geometric arrangement of leaf veins, and stored overnight. The plant also tracks information about the cycle of day and night via its internal circadian clocks, which are sensitive to environmental cues that signal dawn and dusk. mallow Overnight, using information from all these sources, the mallow can predict where and when the Sun will rise the next day. It might not have concepts such as ‘the Sun’ or ‘sunrise’, but it stores information about the light vector and day/night cycles that allows it to reorient its leaves before dawn so that their surfaces face the Sun as it climbs in the sky. This also allows it to re-learn a new location when plant physiologists mess with its ‘head’ by changing the direction of the light source. When the plants are shut in the dark, the anticipatory mechanism also works offline for a few days. Like other foraging strategies, this is about optimising available resources – in this case, sunlight. Does this mechanism count as a ‘representation’ – standing in for parts of the world that are relevant to the plant’s behaviour? Yes, in my view. Just as neuroscientists try to uncover the mechanisms in nervous systems in order to understand the operation of memory in , plant research is beginning to unravel the memory substrates that allow plants to store and access information, and use that memory to guide behaviour. animals Plants are a diverse and flexible group of organisms whose extraordinary capacities we are only just beginning to understand. Once we expand the vista of our curiosity beyond animal and even plant – to look at fungi, bacteria, protozoa – we might be surprised to find that many of these organisms share many of the same basic behavioural strategies and principles as us, including the capacity for kinds of learning and memory. kingdoms To make effective progress, we need to pay careful attention to plant mechanisms. We need to be clear about when, how and why we are using metaphor. We need to be precise about our theoretical claims. And where the evidence points in a direction, even when it is away from common consensus, we need to boldly follow where it leads. These research programmes are still in their infancy, but they will no doubt continue to lead to new discoveries that challenge and expand human perspectives on plants, blurring some of the traditional boundaries that separated the plant and animal realms. Of course, it’s a stretch of the imagination to try to think about what thinking might even mean for these organisms, lacking as they do the brain(mind)/body(motor) divide. However, by pushing ourselves, we might end up expanding the concepts – such as ‘memory’, ‘learning’ and ‘thought’ – that initially motivated our enquiry. Having done so, we see that in many cases, talk of plant learning and memory is not just metaphorical, but also matter-of-fact. Next time you stumble upon a kerbside mallow bobbing in the sunlight, take a moment to look at it with new eyes, and to appreciate the window this little weed provides into the extraordinary cognitive capacities of plants. https://aeon.co/essays/beyond-the-animal-brain-plants-have-cognitive-capacities-too?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=87a007a27a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_03_29_02_58&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-87a007a27a-70379153

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