Psychologist and social thinker Timothy Leary, in his book The Intelligence Agents, discusses this need for a shift in social perceptions and ‘intelligence’ and offers the following advice on how to develop such capacity:
1. Continually expand the scope, source, intensity of the information you receive.
2. Constantly revise your reality maps, and seek new metaphors about the future to understand what's happening now.
3. Develop external networks for increasing intelligence. In particular, spend all your time with people are smart or smarter than you. We assume that you are the Intelligence Agent from you gene pool, so you will seek Intelligence Agents from other gene-pools who will stimulate you to get smarter.
Leary, in his characteristic playful manner, is drawing attention to the possibility for mental mutation. This refers to the capacity for a mutational process to occur within the neurological dynamics of a given society. Such a process is likely to mark the transition phase from our present species (homo sapiens sapiens) to the next (see Chapter Nine). Whereas in the past the evolutionary markers were first biological, then cultural, today’s evolutionary acceleration demands that rapid change be neurological and spiritual. In other words, the responsibility is on us to provide part of the participatory energies in the form of revitalised ideologies, understanding, and perceptions, if we are to engage successfully in the coming changes. Rather than just a change in the gene pool, we now need a radical upgrade to our species meme pool.
A ‘meme’, which as an evolutionary agent of change, can be anything from cultural linguistic artefacts, social laws and ‘truths’, to belief systems divine and/or dogmatic. In other words, a meme pool is a repository of ideas from which any given social collective drinks and refreshes – or against which they rebel. At the same time, ideas themselves can behave similar to biological viruses:
Consider the T-phage virus. A T-phage cannot replicate itself; it reproduces by hijacking the DNA of a bacterium, forcing its host to make millions of copies of the phage. Similarly, an idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior, causing you to want to tell your friends about the idea, thus exposing them to the idea-virus. Any idea which does this is called a ‘meme’…Unlike a virus, which is encoded in DNA molecules, a meme is nothing more than a pattern of information, one that happens to have evolved a form which induces people to repeat that pattern. Typical memes include individual slogans, ideas, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions. It may sound a bit sinister, this idea that people are hosts for mind-altering strings of symbols, but in fact this is what human culture is all about.
The externalization of human thinking – in ideologies as well as in icons – is both a threat to our growth as well as a means for our empowerment and development. Human language, the expression of our thoughts, can be both a virus and an antidote. Just as RNA protein molecules act as transmitters of information between DNA, that carry information to instruct the DNA to develop and act/function; so does language in the human sphere act as the transmitter of our thoughts between ‘human cells’ within the global body. If a bacterial virus spreads, such as cancer, it causes the cell to decay, and this infected cell is liable to spread the disease further. Similarly, if a segment of the human population gets a virus-idea (such as ‘kill all those opposed to our beliefs’), then this thought can spread rapidly through language and culture. Thus, people and populations, like cancerous cells, can be infected and destroyed. As one cultural critic remarked - ‘An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you’.
In brief, biology passes on genes whilst human culture passes on memes. And the condition of our memes, our species mindset, will determine to a large degree our evolutionary fitness in these transition times. It is thus imperative, crucial, that we establish a healthy and positive, forward thinking, mindset and perceptual paradigm. As described in Chapter One, we are all open systems that use information as energy; energy that is precious and required to fuel us as we press ahead as a collective intelligence. Discipline too is required to ensure that our mindful (perception) energies are not lost and wasted through emotions of fear, anger, and other inner disturbances that become enlarged, exaggerated, and then projected externally. It is useful to remember that negativity seeks to impress itself upon us to force us to believe it is more prevalent than it actually is. This is because negativity is always in a minority quantity in comparison to the positive; thus, it needs to pretend it is greater than it actually is if it is to have any chance of influence over us. These are the hallmarks of desperate practices. Our defence is the quality of our own thinking and consciousness - at all times. As Tom Montalk writes,
The surest way to work for the betterment of mankind is to improve yourself, educate yourself, become aware and skilled at delivering that awareness to others who are interested. It’s more about building up your potential to serve than just going out there and haphazardly trying to do good…Improving yourself means becoming ever more mentally stable and emotionally balanced, acquiring wisdom from observation and experience, taking great care to deal with people according to their level of understanding. Educating yourself means learning more about what really matters, what is really going on in this world and within yourself, the hidden things that manipulate people that could be stopped if only they knew about it, and the positive principles that if known and applied would allow one to progress more intelligently and powerfully yet compassionately through life.
To engage with the transition times does not require from everyone that they should take the role of direct action. Much can be given through more subtle interactions: by simply being ‘in presence’ with the right intentions and energy. The real evolutionary struggle we are facing now is a battle for our consciousness. The changing times of life on planet Earth now require that we take more responsibility with ourselves. After all, when we lift ourselves we also indirectly, yet significantly, lift the world around us.