Extra-Solar Appendices

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  5 Survivability Engineering

Evolution of survivability depends on random events until the ability to make conscious choices appears. But the design steps that promote survivability have been formalized in survivability engineering for use in spacecraft and other complex systems. They are applicable in biological systems and have in some cases been derived from those systems. They include using reliable components, surface hardening, redundancy, proliferation, self- maintenance and repair, concealment, evasion, aggression, social cooperation, and situation awareness coupled with flexible response.

They are of interest here because they include cooperation in the mutual interest of a group, a nation, or a planet. This in turn gives rise to a range of feelings and emotions that determine whether cooperation will succeed or not. These are originally expressed non-verbally and while potent have a relatively low information content. Their power in determining whether cooperation succeeds suggests that some change in our dominant feelings or emotions may be needed if we are to halt the destruction of Earth’s ecosystem.

The other survivability technique of prime interest is situational awareness and flexible response. This involves the cognitive functions of the mammalian brain and is already active in detecting the degradation of the planet on multiple levels by scientific methods. It has been a major influence, after social cooperation, in our evolution as the dominant animal on the planet. Making use of science to reverse environmental degradation will however require it to cooperate with the emotional and feeling functions of our brain.

Social Cooperation

Cooperation evolves of the way it improves the ability of a species to carry out activities necessary to support metabolism, such as gathering food, finding shelter, sharing surveillance for threats, sharing escape routes, and mounting aggressive attacks to remove threats. This evolved in humans to a significant degree when cooperation at the family level enabled the mother to devote herself to child-bearing. This allowed the early species that evolved into humans to out populate its competitor, the chimpanzees.  It is the transition this type of cooperation from the family level to the planetary level that is difficult, even though the need for it was formally acknowledged internationally in 1948.

It was in the transition from the family to the tribe where difficulties began. In the family it is the mother who decides what is required for nurture of the children and their early training. It is the father who decides how this is supported, taking over direction of the young as they become competent in such tasks of obtaining food and building shelters. He organizes the resources of the family to the best effect.

The tribe finds itself a family of families without a defined father of fathers. The results is physical competition for this role, which is at base a competition in genetic fitness. It works but reinforces aggression. And instead of cooperation there is social conflict in establishing the pecking order for sharing within the multifamily. What has happened in human evolution is that intelligence as mental fitness, bringing situation awareness and flexible response, has increased in importance over physical fitness, although still depending on it. So, the range of behaviors involved in gaining social precedence, has evolved out of all proportion to those we see in other species.

We tend to be amazed at the way the size and beauty of a peacock's tail has become a means of social precedence for males within its species, or the elaborate decorative bowers produced by bower birds and the dance that presents it, or various insect rituals. As odd as they appear, each is only one genetic adaptation arising in a single species. In our single species we have thousands of adaptive variations of this one theme. A theme that is directed towards achieving and demonstrating superior fitness for survival so as to acquire a mate with superior genetic and adaptive fitness to produce children of greater fitness.

So, each male and female makes the best use of the physiology, skills, and material benefits inherited from its parents, augmented by what it has learned on its path to maturity. So we have the mating displays in language (story telling, poetry and song), visual effects (hair, clothes, adornment), physical displays in sports and dancing, structural displays in dwellings and vehicles, and so forth.

Sources of Pollution

Why do we have a planet that produces billionaires, while billions suffer in poverty? Why do we have a society that wastes resources and pollutes the planet? Money creates status. It has become the coinage of genetic fitness. And as you can make money by keeping people in poverty, wasting resources and polluting, that is what we get. Our ambition to impress has got out of hand. If we want to preserve the planet we need to reign in overweening ambition and improve cooperation. Fortunately, cooperation remains in our genes and we can learn to use it more effectively

In both the competitive area of sexual selection and away from it, there are social interactions involving subtle variations in the expression and interpretation of emotions and feelings. Those related to compassion and empathy that get lost in the strive for status. These social emotions evolved in constructive activities such as gathering food, building shelters or bridges across streams, and ultimately stone monuments, where cooperative use of senses and muscle power were necessary. This may also have occurred as sharing of knowledge, such as locations of water or the benefits provided by different foods.

As these positive social interactions become more common, the well-being of the participants grew. An important part of group survival becomes aiding those who are struggling and need help or are in distress.  Cooperative behavior in moving large objects and recognizing another’s distress depend on evolution of a theory of mind, whereby an individual becomes able to share another’s physical and mental feelings by viewing others with empathy or compassion. Looking the other way while promoting self-interest in the gathering of wealth degrades ability in this form of social support.

Religion has an important part in nurturing the various forms of positive social behavior, particularly in offering compassion and help for those in distress. Communal worship and prayer, expressing a common desire for a healthy society reinforce these activities. However, religion no longer is the sole outlet for expression of such support in a community. Non-profit organizations without religious connection and supported by charitable donations increasingly provide aid for those in distress. However, while financial donations to these charities show a recognition of other’s distress, it is not the same as experiencing compassion directly. It also reinforces the impression that pursuing money at the expense of positive social goals is a virtue. And to this extent our sensitivity in compassion is declining

 7/30/2020 8:00

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