I’m going on a thought experiment here, so don’t blame me for being bizarre, or immoral, and do not assume I am personally committed to every part of my very non-linear argument. To capitalize on brains one would have to level the neuronal playing field. Farming didn’t really began until the plow was invented, literally leveling the playing field for crops. When a XIX century capitalist finds oil, he doesn’t feel disgusted with the smell and the texture of the substance, because he has leveled the entire world as an oil playing field, and that includes his own body. Leveling the playing field is, thus, a world-creating endeavor. A cautionary advice: “world” and “entire world” are just ideas, and they are worth what they are worth. Moving on.
Eukaryotes were, in a way, the first capitalists in history, meaning that they were the first to break up with the world-as-it-is. The membrane they invented was, in this sense, the first successful movement of reterritorialization. You can always go back and take other “first” instances of individuality, such as bacteria, or self-replicating molecules, and if you are a radical you can go as far as the subatomic level, and even further. I’m not a radical, though. I am not looking for an arche, and if you follow me, you will see that absolute references are not my goal here, and you will see why, hopefully. Back to eukarya: when cells invented this new thing, this “let’s live together forever” thing, the membrane became the symbol of that reunion, of that pact. And the membrane became their world, their entire world. And the “real” world, outside, has had to deal with these new, quite powerful and increasingly complex organisms, which very quickly – once they appeared evolution picked up speed – reshaped the entire biosphere. They didn’t destroy previous life forms (something that now looks very much impossible); in fact, they have learned to live together with these other life forms, either by coopting them, or by enacting cooperative modes of functioning, or even by developing ways of resisting their attacks. These strategies have proven quite successful, so far.
So, to level the neuronal playing field we would have to give up believing that the power of ideas is what guides us. First of all, acknowledging that big ideas are about power, as we have seen, is in itself a difficulty. Second, if ideas have potency, that is because they can survive on a sea of unstructured beliefs and partial (“broken”) images, and this sea is obviously not going to go away. All I’m saying is that ideas are real (and that is a huge deal), but they are not the real, (which may seem obvious, but sadly is not). In fact, ideas are quite insignificant, if you think about the vastness and the inscrutability of the real. They are absolutely not the whole thing. So the feeling of inadequacy of ideas maybe painful, and even extremely so, because ideas are real, but this is not important. The amount of pain something causes does not make it important, as well as the amount of joy [I’m going with Spinoza here. Great guy, have you heard of him?]
Let me go back a bit: the sea of unstructured beliefs and broken images is not going away. If an asteroid collides with this planet things can happen, but this is not a drama. The death of all individuals is not the actual extinction of a species, no matter how painful it may feel to a loving observer. You would have to kill potency itself to actually extinguish anything, and this is, for all that matters to us here, impossible. What happens is that our ideas have survived in this sea of senselessness. What happens is that they have developed strategies of survival, but these are still very primitive strategies, very fragile. Our beloved – yet truly unimportant – ideas could die, as things go, except that now (as all evidence suggests) there is a good chance that they take a step further in the process of creating new forms of survival. They are about to become collectively (much more) efficacious. They are about to become resilient, able to prosper on a sea of unstructured… well, you get the point. Again that doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just something that is going on, something that we contemplate, as it contemplates us [Plotinus, in a way].
It is through worship that someone can become, that the individual can appear, and it is also through worship that exchange can take place. In short: communion, humanness. But all worship has a hole made of indifference. Filling this hole is the dream of fanatics; extinguishing worship altogether is the dream of those who consider themselves prudent. A completely different thing would be to have this hole stabilized, as a form of non-worship that lies inside worship. Easier said than done: the fact that you are reading this text, and believing that you can think things by yourself – and, very much as your own Descartes, that this proves your existence (whatever this means) –, is a gift from the same primitive belief system which you reckon yourself standing out against. We are the rational membrane of a system that grows out of the fanaticism it holds on its core. We feed from the same universalistic plate. The catholic dynamics, followed by all monotheistic thinking (religious or not) ever since, is actually flawless: stability based on the dream of unlimited growth, combined with the anticipation of fatal disruption (which will of course come about when unlimited growth reveals itself unsustainable).
Let me conclude with an illustrative metaphor: what explains the evolution of sexual reproduction is the individuation of entire ecosystems. Vertebrates (especially birds, amphibians and mammals) depend on complex ecosystems, spaces where their specialized tissues can be protected, where their bodies can fit in. Complex ecosystems, on the other hand, depend on the phenotypic flexibility and diversity entertained by sexually reproduced species.
We walk towards the sexual reproduction of delicate ideas: Ideodiversity, the victory of weak signals, of subtle thoughts, living on a sea of broken images and unstructured beliefs, unimportantly.