Advancing Freedom of Inquiry, Expression, and Association
Bounded by Equal Justice AND OPPORTUNITY, thus
enhancing sustainable global progress


Copyright © 1970-2014 by Barnabas D. Johnson


Simulating a human requires simulating our emergent global civilization, including Aristotle and Shakespeare, Bach and Einstein, science and law, as well as simulating the evolving institutions, values, and “unarticulable major premises” composing our cultural hardware, software, and (most interesting of all) in-between-ware. That simulation requires, in turn, simulating our solar system, our galaxy, and our universe which, by definition, is One … no matter how multi-dimensional or mysterious.

Every observation, description, measurement, distinction, thought-experiment, or theory regarding this One, or any of its components, calls forth “information” (broadly defined, including erroneous assertions and theories); and such information, in turn, invites or requires further “information-processing” further observation and inquiry, reconsideration and refinement.

To simulate all this information-processing probably requires a computer about the size of, well, our universe. Conclusion: There will never be another Aristotle, Shakespeare, Bach, or you. So, make the best of being real, as you cannot be improved upon in any simulation.


Your reality must, however, accord with the impossible-to-outdate epiphany that, as we humans are products of biological and cultural evolution, so we should never presume (let alone strive!) to be the “end point” of those coevolutionary processes. Instead, we and our successors must become increasingly-competent agents of further evolution — indeed, coevolution — deliberately and deliberatively “playing God” — that is, making creative and responsible choices enhancing the healthy progress of regenerative intelligence in our galactic neighborhood.

In effect, we must establish a new global religion, an embodiment of our best logic, science, historical insight, and future-affirming commitment to liberty bounded by justice. This embodiment of knowledge and optimism composes the moral undergirding and navigational constant of pan-planetary necessity and resulting constitutional invention.

Unlike all previous religions, this one must be self-testing, self-correcting, based on free inquiry rather than blind faith. In short, it must be cybernetic, the constitutionalization of coevolving self-knowledge and self-governance.

This essay seeks to illuminate how humanity can sustain and advance the “necessary invention” of Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving.


“Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving” (RISE) is a place-marker for a much-of-a-muchness that we, unfinished children of unfathomable mystery and inestimable potential, seek to explore.

We know enough, already, to guess with considerable confidence that “it” — the concept of RISE, and the obligation it imposes on us of further inquiry — is well worth our continuing, open-ended, synergetic explorations … but these must be “self-limiting” or cybernetic.

Synergetics and cybernetics are intertwined concepts [1] that, together, help mark the road to RISE. These words are tools of thought and communication — tools for making new tools, new cultural hardware and, most important, software. Lots more tools will be needed. Synergetics and cybernetics are a sort-of “on the one hand, this, but on the other hand, that” stereoscopic viewfinder through which we discover that more hands are budding forth. An octopus is in the making. It becomes us, a medley of metaphrands seeking metaphiers to form more stately metaphors (see below). We are an embodiment of “unfinishedness” seeking to know itself better so that it might remain unfinished forever.


I want to expand on this theme of tool-making tools, cultural software, and metaphors. It is vital to the future worthwhile survival and healthy evolution of a “datum of analysis” which transcends each individual, all presently-living humans, and our current planetary existence. Ultimately it must be its own best metaphor, fundamentally unlike anything else we know of. I call it RISE. It could just as well be called “Katchalpolis”; indeed, I call it that elsewhere.

The use of “cultural software” to denote tools of thought and communication, etc., is suggested by J.M. Balkin’s book, Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology (1998). Balkin’s first paragraph supplies a powerful metaphor: As God completed the work of Creation at sunset of the sixth day, according to the Talmud, God created the first set of tongs — the first tool — because tongs can only be forged using other tongs. The idea of tool-making tools is central to the coevolution of Matter and Mind, the evolution of culture, and the Advancement of Learning … including the evolution of cultural know-how regarding governance and self-governance.

Perhaps the greatest contribution to our understanding of cultural software is offered by Julian Jaynes’ book, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976-1990). One does not have to accept the entirety of Jaynes’ astonishing speculations, etc., to recognize the power of his treatment of metaphors. “There are … always two terms in a metaphor, the thing to be described, which I shall call the metaphrand, and the thing or relation used to elucidate it, which I shall call the metaphier. A metaphor is always a known metaphier operating on a less known metaphrand. I have coined these hybrid terms simply to echo multiplication where a multiplier operates on a multiplicand. … It is by metaphor that language grows. The common reply to ‘what is it?’ is, when the reply is difficult or the experience unique, ‘well, it is like — .’ … The human body is a particularly generative metaphier, creating previously unspeakable distinctions in a throng of areas. The head of an army, table, page, bed, ship, household, or nail, or of steam or water; the face of a clock, cliff, card, or crystal; the eyes of needles, winds, storms, targets, flowers, or potatoes; the brow of a hill; the cheeks of a vice; the teeth of cogs or combs; the lips of pitchers, craters, augers.” (pp. 48-49).

Indeed, observes Jaynes, “language is an organ of perception, not merely a means of communication.” (50) Our sense of reality is mediated by metaphor. “Even such an unmetaphorical-sounding word as the verb ‘to be’ was generated from a metaphor. It comes from the Sanskrit bhu, ‘to grow, or make grow,’ while the English forms ‘am’ and ‘is’ have evolved from the same root as the Sanskrit asmi, ‘to breathe.’ It is something of a lovely surprise that the irregular conjugation of our most nondescript verb is thus a record of a time when man had no independent word for ‘existence’ and could only say that something ‘grows’ or that it ‘breathes.'” (51).

Interestingly, not all languages have a word for “is”; Russian uses a dash, thereby conferring upon one of my favorite (most necessary) punctuation marks a completely different duty, as in: “Ah, building a global ‘cultural software’ equal to the challenges at hand — a difficulty!”


Even “metaphor” started as a metaphrand in search of a metaphier.

Furthermore, meta — “over” — and pherein — “to carry” — doubtless had precursors, no less than bhu and asmi did.

Our communicative grunts and stunts preceded agriculture and, hence, the movement from “grow” to “make grow”; and metaphorical “carrying” (as in a mother “bearing” her child, whether in her womb or on her back) may have originated in a baby’s first cry of dependency, or perhaps second, or third. Who knows?


We humans are deeply “immersed” in our knowledge. Surely there is a “real reality out there” that is distinct from our metaphors, but when it comes to cultural institutions, including law, we are the “makers” of what “is”; law “breathes”; and let us never forget that “natural law” and “natural rights” are essentially cultural constructions. They have coevolved with our knowing, our liberties, our limitations on those evolving liberties, and our most general “carrying capacity” of … that infant which is our future.


Natural law and natural rights are not primarily “of” nature; but then, neither is “human nature”; these are mostly “of” second-nature or culture. Indeed, they are “useful fictions” somewhat like the legal fiction of “constructive consent” by which, when we consented to be born, we consented to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or at least to be jostled on a crowded commuter train. These “useful fictions” are extended metaphors, or (on deepest examination) remarkably-recent metaphrands in search of adequate metaphiers. We, carriers of civilization, are their parents and — as an evolving second-nature “species” — their originators.

RISE is a hyper-extended metaphrand in search of a consciously-constructed “third-nature” metaphier that we are deliberatively growing: a “self” that transcends the natural and even the “conventionally” cultural. RISE asme self-consciously self-governing, or (words fail us!) future-consciously self-transforming. It does not yet “exist”; it is a baby being carried “over” our present time to make-grow a potentially-better future time.

RISE is mere metaphor. If you don’t like it, propose a better one. By doing so, you might make a better baby bhu


We are fortunate to live when the dew is fresh upon computer-aided, internet-mediated “thinking” at both individual and societal levels but our progress will be enhanced and safeguarded if we never forget just how tentative these toddling first steps are. Let us celebrate with circumspection, not with strutting.

Hubris, especially the arrogance of believing that ones own tribe or sect or nation is the “chosen people” and that all others are inferior, deluded, or damned, is the worst enemy of RISE. Ironically, however, the consequences of such hubris are so dysfunctional that we must be prepared to say, gently but firmly, that such chosen-people dogmas are inferior, deluded, and damned.


Synergies are neither good nor bad, only “unpredictable” based on the perceivable nature of their components. Since those components are never found in isolation but only in real-time “synergistic waltzes” with sibling subsystems — thereby composing unpredictable meta-systems — synergies can never be “known” except by looking beyond them and (in a manner of rough-hewn exposition) looking from “future standpoints” that allow 20/20 hindsight … to illuminate, but never to fully perceive, what composes and governs them.


Synergistic explorations are limited by cybernetic, self-corrective processes, and these require individual and societal attention to negative feedback (information that encourages error correction) and positive feedback (information that encourages … goal formation? … not quite; the “not this” calls forth the “yes that” which must then be tested by further error-correction).

Terms like “negative” and “positive” are themselves place-markers for complex, coevolving “know-hows” whose most important ingredient must remain humble acknowledgement of how little we know of synergetic and cybernetic interactions. They made us what we are, and most of what that is remains profoundly mysterious.


Whatever is possible is bounded by what logic, science, history, and values and institutions based thereon — what I call the cybernetics of society — deem (a) probable, and (b) worth pursuing. Due to synergistic processes, many things are possible, even such improbable things as Bach, Shakespeare, and Katchalpolis. But cybernetic processes winnow out what is evolutionarily dysfunctional or, better, currently improbable, which is why we don’t hear much of Katchalpolis. Synergism and cybernetics together result in what we have previously called “causality”; together, they can make many things, and experiment with many more, the most interesting of which (arguably) is — asmi? — RISE.


RISE, whatever it is, must compose the foundation of Open Civilization values. These values constitute “facts” in the same sense, it seems, that many say a newborn child is a “fact” in the Mind of God. We don’t have to profess any conventional belief in God to get the general idea, and ponder it productively. This idea is another place-marker on the road … dare we hope? … to a better world.

Open Civilization values shape and guide our “seedling planet” towards a healthy, viable future. Even when these values are ultimately unarticulable, we should try our best to give them voice. RISE seeks to do so. Put differently, what is “regenerative” about RISE is that it institutionalizes new beginnings, including new efforts to understand and explain what now we call RISE but earlier we called by other names. The name is not the thing or relationship named. We are what we are — or are becoming..

The idea of “place-markers” bothers many, especially those who innocently yet foolishly see their particular language as representing a perfect snapshot of changeless reality rather than seeing all languages, including their own, as imperfect and changeable tools — indeed, toolboxes, including left-threaded doohickeys and right-handed whatchamacallums — to facilitate thought, communication, exploration, and creative yet responsible change-making over time.

Believing in the “literal truth” of this or that supposedly-sacred formulation (often others’ heresy!), too many people deprive themselves of those illuminating doubts which are the portals to wisdom. Seek not the “letter of truth” but the spirit of truth-finding — honoring the Masks of God by pursuing the Quest for Meanings.

Sacred texts are a contradiction of terms, like frozen flames. It is profound nonsense to assert that in the beginning was the Word. In the beginning was a grunt, a baby’s uncertain cry, a metaphrand lighting up a quizzical brow.

By definition, God the Yahweh — the Nameless — grunts.  


Words like “God” ought to stand for a concept, or bundle of insights, etc., that are under investigation — in which the name is not the thing or relationship named, the map is not confused with the territory, but, rather, all words, etc., are perceived as societal “conveniences” (sometimes “inconveniences”) to assist worthy explorations and frustrate “cul-de-sac” explorations. Some of the most precious yet dangerous of these conveniences are, indeed, meta-tools: tools for examining and critiquing how we shape our tools and how they shape us, even ape us. Indeed, we invariably ape our tools, or — more precisely — we and they together “make” what our planetary civilization is becoming … for us, for our children’s children, and for generations far into the future who (let us hope) will honor their ancestors for keeping themselves and their tools imperfect, ever evolving, never finished.

What is the color of a chameleon in a lit, mirrored box? Answer: It depends on where the chameleon was spending time before it was placed in the box. That “starting point” is of the essence. We are history — embodied choice and action taking its cues from the past, projecting synergistic possibilities into the future.

But the chameleon’s box must remain lit, else the experiment becomes pointless.


Linguistic, meta-linguistic, and meta-communicative “tools” that (1) say something (the cat is on the mat) or (2) say something about saying something (the word “cat” is not on the mat) or (3) say something about the relationships among those who communicate (how nice of me to point out that the word “cat” is not on the mat), are — metaphorically speaking — coevolving into toolboxes of an Ecology of Mind which is distilling an Ecology of Values whose most precious value is humility, the opposite of hubris. The worst manifestation of hubris, arguably, is “literalism” or “fundamentalism” which holds, as a matter of faith, that the words of this or that sacred text are not “about the search for truth” but, instead, are themselves Truth.

RISE is impossible where people are … too sure.

One would think that the name “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” as the name of “God” (whatever we mean by it) ought to have been sufficient to protect our explorations of ultimate reality from simplistic literalism because, as already noted, “Yahweh” means, essentially, The Nameless. The name of this ultimate reality, in other words, ought to steer us away from being all that (excuse me) goddamned certain that we have some special corner of truth regarding what God is. All fundamentalists and literalists commit (to use their concept) “heresy” when they insist upon imposing on others their own certainty as to the nature, commands, and fundamental “truths” of their sacred texts, for those texts are neither true nor false, but are reflections only of past explorations. Some of those explorations were inspired. Others, not surprisingly, were not. We honor all texts by continuing our explorations, ever wary or what was and remains inadequate, even nonsensical. We honor all tools and products of thought and communication by remaining skeptical. Any Divinity worthy of being called that by Humanity must rejoice in our never-ending capacity for doubt, exploration, unfinishedness.


I’ve been pondering how to say all this better. I first used the phrase “Regenerative Intelligence Still Evolving” in my 1970 Harvard Law School “thesis” or (as HLS called it) “Third Year Written Work”; that tentative musing (a) was produced under the auspices of a course entitled “Soviet, Chinese, and Western Approaches to International Law”, (b) was entitled Cosmic Synergism and the Global Village Discontinuity, (c) was submitted on the first “Earth Day”, 22 April 1970, (d) sought to examine and improve upon R. Buckminster Fuller’s “definition” of synergism the behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their constituent subsystems and (e) was my second attempt to discuss what I later settled on calling “the cybernetics of society” … a place-marker for a much-of-a-muchness focused on open-ended, liberty-enhancing evolution.

My first attempt was a speech I delivered in 1966, asserting:

The “Good Society” must never be viewed as a “plateau of perfection” that can be reached. Rather, it must be viewed as an ongoing process of reaching, of becoming, of evolving. Utopia gained is Utopia lost.


To be Continued in 2014


[1] I wanted to write “sort of yin-yang concepts” but decided not to, mainly because the concept of yin-yang connotes something which is often given a concreteness that I am trying to avoid. Yin-yang also suggests a dichotomy where, I believe, a trinity provides a more accurate model — although “much of a muchness” evokes the idea even better. Wherever we find interdependent concepts, interpenetrative things and relationships, we must remember that our best tools of thought and communication are specialized, and hence limited to some tasks. Our best tools are superb for some tasks, worthless for others.

(By the way, as we shall explore, some have called “it” yowza or some-such, as in: yin, yang, yowza.)

See First Trinity.

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