Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
As Josh Korda has said in his previous talks, in terms of neuroscience, the human brain hasn’t evolved much at all in half a million years. But what has evolved? Human civilizations and cultures. Much of what is evolving about our brains is not located inside our skulls. The continued evolution of our brain is happening outside our skulls in our culture, in civilization, which could be called the ‘collective brain’, what Jung might have called the ‘collective unconscious.’ But it’s actually quite conscious; we just don’t recognize it as ‘our brain.’ Social infrastructures and processes, cultures (arts, universities), communications (media), cybernetics (computers, internet) are all parts of our newly evolved ‘brains’ that we all have access to, in varying degrees, depending on language barriers and access to connective technology. The global brain is produced by a global civilization to run a global civilization. So even though the evolution of the gelatinous mass inside our skulls has been limited (and of course it would be—it can only get so big and requires huge amounts of energy and care as it is), our collective brain is evolving rapidly, expanding exponentially, and has become nearly infinite in complexity. It’s so vast and complex that an individual can only access tiny fractions of this global brain. What humans evolved are the necessary components to create and access the collective brain: coding (language, symbolism) and decoding (communication, analysis). Once we got that, we were no longer dependent on evolving the gelatinous mass inside our skulls. We could evolve a collective brain that was infinitely more powerful—and potentially more destructive. As Josh said at the end of his latest talk (‘Karma: A Neural Interpretation’), ‘let’s do the hard work of connecting with each other’. Similarly, let’s also do the hard work of freeing ourselves from the limits of individual neuroscience and start talking about culture and society as ‘our collective brain’ in Buddhist terms.