principle theme of "The Goldilocks Effect" is that of an evolutionary
continuum extending from the formation of stars from just
hydrogen, right through the generation of the chemical elements, the
formation of solar systems, the initiation and development of biology
(and concurrent geology) to the
establishment of human imagination, which provides the medium for the
clearly seen current phase, the evolution of technology.
is a strong directionality throughout these observed aspects of nature.
Despite the fact that chance is undeniably a key factor in
driving these natural processes, there is also a high degree of
inevitability in gross outcomes, which is particularly evidenced by the
various "just right" considerations of chemistry. It is these
which inspire the book's title.
important sub-topic is that of learning the knack of viewing our
species and, in particular, our minds, in a truly objective way.
become aware of ourselves as societies of cells, or as swarms, rather
than adopting the self-centred introspective mind-sets that we are so
By this means we are able to pin down our special quality, imagination,
the ability to make extraordinarily complex maps of the external
environment within our minds.
Similarly our sense of agency, consciousness, call it what you will,
can be ascribed to an essentially navigational function which has
evolved, of necessity, to cope wth our unusually high degree of
interaction with our environment.
evolutionary patterns we observe can be meaningfully projected into the
future and the vector points strongly towards what is now the
internet replacing biology as the next phase of the on-going life
process. This aspect is of considerable practical importance
it impacts crucially upon the very survival of humankind.
the years that have passed since the publication of "Unusual
Perspectives" there has arisen a greatly increased awareness
of these all-pervasive
manifestations of nature's wonderful machinery.
From fields as disparate as archeology (Timothy Taylor), mineralogy,
M Hazen) and psychology (Wasserman and Blumberg) and ecology (Sterner
Petroski, Professor of engineering and history has, in fact, been
nibbling away at the aspect of the evolution of ideas
over many years.
As, even earlier, had George Basalla, and in a rather different
contexts, the gene
ethologist Richard Dawkins.
writers Kevin Kelly and Steven
Johnson, both of whom have been heavily involved with Wired
magazine and related projects, have also independently joined the fray
with the more widely based new releases "What Technology Wants"
and "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History
these contributions form a patchwork representing parts of the
evolutionary spectrum, according to the area of specialisation, none of
the proponents are sufficiently bold (or foolhardy) as to yet attempt a
seamless integration of these segments over the whole gamut of observed
natural processes such as is provided here.
The closest I have encountered so far is "The Chemistry of Evolution"
by Williams & Frausto da Silva. This excellent work extends and
emphasises points made in "Unusual Perspectives" regarding the critical
qualities of the chemical elements which make biology possible. It also
makes the connection from stellar beginnings through to biology and to
the specialised nervous system of our species, although the
authors stop short of fully attributing a contiguous evolution of
technology to the process.
lessons have been learned from feed-back on "Unusual Perspectives". It
be seriously misinterpreted if skimmed (and some find it to be a hard
So in "The Goldilocks Effect" I have tried to provide an account that,
as far as is practicable:
Is more concise.
Adheres more closely to the main
Avoids unnecessary diversions
Outlines the very basic features
of the sciences which provide its framework.
Explicitly rejects any religious
or other superstitious interpretations.
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