Society Neotenizing

April 13, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Neoteny, Social, Society, Web

There is a deep, underlying connection between processes that guide the unfolding of biological evolution and social/cultural evolution. Stephen J. Gould has described in detail how neoteny, or the unfolding of infant features or characteristics into the adult of a species over the scale of evolutionary time, influences the evolution of a species. The same dynamic is now engaged as technology encourages the empowering of individuals by providing them access to information and access to other humans. The process is transcending barriers of knowledge, distance and national boundaries.

In evolutionary biology, humans displayed increased neotenous characteristics as maturation rates delayed the emergence of features later and later in an individual’s ontogeny. Similarly, new technology provides increased transparency, breaking down the barriers between human beings. The increase in transparency evidences itself in several ways.

There is less information hidden from participants at lower levels of hierarchy. The effect can flatten hierarchy because information control informs the decision-making process. When information is widely dispersed, the decision-making processes can be widely shared. New tech voting options can streamline consensus when information is widely held.

Transparency emerges when national boundaries and geographic barriers fall. Instantaneous global communication is creating a transparency surge.

Just as infant features unfold into the adult over time, the features of the individual unfold into the features of multilevel social systems. As hierarchical and geographical barriers fall, organizations function in ways analogous to a single human being displaying unencumbered abilities to gather, analyze and communicate information.

This process has been underway since before the advent of the corporation. Ever since corporations were redefined as “individuals” after the Civil War, there has been a movement toward increased transparency as power has moved from controlling individuals and families to controlling investors. A movement within corporations to enhance transparency has been gaining momentum as the benefits become more obvious.

There has been increased transparency in government long term, and the media, of course, seek to keep walls down. Though there have been obvious exceptions in the way media and government have behaved post 9/11, a stark contrast has emerged between the secrecy extolled by the Bush Administration and the direction new technology is taking society as web vehicles continue to reveal what the older paradigm seeks to hide.

Both in the biological and social spheres, there is a systemic drive to carry the lowest to the highest, the creative source to the completed adult, the grassroots to the controlling power. We can see the future of society in ourselves, for the individual is the model for an integrated world just as the power, beauty and creativity of conception is the enlightenment achieved by the actualized, neotenous adult.


This entry was posted on Sunday, April 13th, 2008 at 6:24 am and is filed under Neoteny, Social, Society, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. One Year : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on April 3, 2009 7:34 am

    […] Society Neotenizing This is the first essay on the transformation of societies through heterochronic processes. I am not aware of this principle appearing in any venue before this piece. […]

Name (required)

Email (required)


Share your wisdom