There are numerous factors to consider when trying to define human potential and fundamental human goals when seen from an evolution perspective. To understand human evolutionary potential as well as human goals grounded by evolution reality, one first has to look at the potentials and goals of evolution itself when seen from universe scale. The reason for this not normally recognized and visible first step is because in one way or another, human potential and human goals will always be both initiated and boundaried (conditioned and/or controlled,) by the potentials, patterns, laws, directionality and goals of the over-arching and all powerful core evolutionary processes of the universe itself.
Think of it this way. Imagine you are in a rowboat with very small oars being carried along in a very large raging river. The oars are so small that they are no match for the unending and continuous power of the river. In this situation the contextual and environmental strength of the raging river will always eventually control and condition your direction. You will get tired of not being able to change your direction and you will eventually go with the river's directional flow whether you like it or not.
Just like the individual in the rowboat example who is fully embedded within the continuously raging river, you and your life are fully embedded within an even more powerful continuous, controlling and directionalized universe evolutionary process, but you just do not normally see and feel these processes conditioning and controlling your life. Using this evolutionary, directionalized full embeddedness understanding it is only logical that the most accurate statement of human potential and human goals will have to be found to be either congruent with and/or continuously conditioned, qualified and controlled by the directionalized processes (the river,) of universe evolution itself.
In addition to the above directionalized full embeddedness issue, to answer the human potential and goals question, it is also essential to see humanity from a “big history” 13.7 billion year-old universe evolutionary perspective. And part of that perspective is that --- humanity is just one evolving species among many that are living now or have lived in the past. While the human species is currently the known apex species on earth and possibly in the universe, it might not always be. There are several ways this might happen.
Humanity as a species might soon take genetic evolution into its own hands and create new kinds of enhanced or different human species. Humanity might also create an entirely new species through genetic engineering. Humanity could even create a new species of intelligent, free will, self-reflective and self-organizing artificial intelligence life forms housed in robotic bodies capable of self-reproduction and self-repair.
When considering humanity's evolutionary potentials and appropriate evolutionary goals for humanity it is wise to consider that when looking back at Earth's 5.2 billion years of evolution, 99.9% of all species have gone extinct. The good news is that before they have gone extinct many (but, not all,) of these past species have served as evolutionary steppingstones for the next more complex, adaptable and intelligent species to appear.
Currently humanity can be seen at the very forefront and apex of the very long spiral of continuous species extinction that has gone on this planet. To help visualize this amazing fact, get a picture in your mind of a huge spiral with humanity being just the tiniest dot at the very end of this spiral. Now look back at the 99.9 % of the rest of this huge mental spiral. That 99.9% of the spiral represents every other species that has gone extinct in Earth’s 5.2 billion year history. A bit humbling isn't it?
This extinction perspective implies that how we use our potential set goals and mature as a species to make decisions that align with and do not fight or conflict with the core principles and patterns of universe evolution will determine if and when we do go extinct and, if our children in whatever form they might be (genetically enhanced humans, new genitally engineered species, or intelligent, free will, self-reflective and self-organizing artificial intelligence life forms housed in robotic bodies capable of self-reproduction and self-repair,) go out into the universe and carry on humanity or humanity’s legacy.
Another factor favoring evolutionary humility to ponder when considering our evolutionary potential and goals is the possibility that we are not alone in the universe. Somewhere in the estimated 400 billion galaxies of our universe there may be other planets with other forms of intelligent, self-reflective self-organizing life. If this is true, humanity might not even be the current apex species in the universe forwarding the leading edge of evolution. Another species may far exceed our human evolutionary potentials and abilities and has already taken over our current known apex role. This new alien species could potentially significantly alter or limit human potential and human goals for future evolution.
Proceeding now with a slightly more humbled and qualified perspective on humanity’s evolutionary place and role within the universe, let us explore what is most likely to be an accurate and realistic statement of human evolutionary potential and human goals based on the facts of universe evolution and our full embeddedness within it.
The Goals of Humanity from an Evolutionary Perspective:
Because of the above senior conditioning and controlling factors of universe evolution the goals of the individual and humanity as a species must logically fit into and align with the goals of universe evolution or they will not be achieved sustainably.
The universe is the arc and curvature to which all lines must conform." Tielhard De Chardin
The directionality, value interests and "goals" of universe evolution are as follows.
Exhaust all universe possibilities (potentiality) through experiments for expanding or more:
novelty, differentiation, complexity, [emergence and change]
growth, mutation, (creativity and innovation, through appropriate, fair or reciprocal energy use and exchange,) [change]
autopoiesis, (self-organization, self-discipline and self-responsibility in individual parts, organisms or individuals,) [change]
feedback awareness self, other and awareness and use of consequences,
intelligence, learning, [change]
adaptability (choice, responsibility, freedom,) [change]
natural compression or centralization because of differential tensions and stresses between different parts and different wholes resulting in eventual unification into new wholes and unions of greater cooperation and scale though new integration and synergies, [change]
order, harmony, transparency, interdependence in existing and new wholes and unions, [change]
self-consciousness, self-reflection (currently only in humans,) and in a way, reflection of the universe upon itself and its own processes (currently only through its human self-reflective parts and human created instruments,) and
theoretically and eventually self reflection of the universe by itself on itself as a totality. [change] And finally,
possible transcendence. [change] (Once all potentials for the universe's developmental progress have been exhausted the unique and exciting possibility of the universe somehow transcending itself into something new once again presents itself --- just as at the end of optimal development of every universe part and whole union there also exists the rare opportunity for that individual part or whole/union to transcend into something new or more.)
When one even partially grasps the vast adventure of the progressive directionality of the universe's evolution one cannot help, but experience a humbling awe toward the epic story and amazing developmental process in which we all are embedded.
"The individual is going to be universalized. The universal is going to be individualized, and thus from both directions the whole is going to be enriched." Jan Smuts, From Holism and Evolution
Because of the embeddedness factor, the above core processes of universe evolution mean that the most basic or even ideal goals for every human (as well as humanity as a whole,) must at the minimum align with the master and controlling universe's evolutionary system's goals and its key process.
"We do not belong to ourselves, even mostly. We belong to the universe." Buckminster Fuller
Therefore, the most basic or even ideal goals for every human (as well as humanity as a whole,) in order of most fundamental priorities are:
1.) To align with and forward the progressive evolution of the universe. (This is the science-grounded logical goal greater than self that richly deepens both individual and group meaning and significance.)
2.) To survive and reproduce as individuals and as a human species in the most optimal way while also aligned with and forwarding the progressive evolution of the universe.
"Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring." Carl Sagan
Yes, your first goal as an embedded individual part within universe evolution is to align with and forward universe evolution. Yes, you can choose any personal goals that also make you happy safe or comfortable. But, those personal and individual goals are not more important than every human's most basic and important goal and responsibility, that is to align with and forward the progressive direction of evolution in the universe.
This means when ever you create any personal (or species,) goal you must carefully evaluate how it aligns with and/or forwards the direction, value interests and goals of the universe's progressive evolution. If your personal goals are conflicting with your core evolutionary responsibility as an embedded part of the universe and they are out of alignment with the direction, value interests and goals of the universe's evolutionary path, they simply will not be sustainable, they will meet increasing resistance or, they may never be realized at all. On the other hand, if you do chose personal goals that also do align and forward the direction, value interests and goals of the universe's evolutionary path, they will be faster and easier to achieve in the long run, they will be sustainable, or, they will be far more likely to be fulfilled.
For selecting both individual human goals and the goals for humanity as a species:
a.) one would need to make sure that their chosen individual (or species,) goals also align with the above two basic evolutionary goals (in 1 and 2 in italics above.) And,
b.) one must create and execute individual or species goals that also:
Exhaust all individual and species possibilities (potentiality) through experiments for expanding or more:
novelty, differentiation, complexity, [emergence and change]
growth, mutation, (creativity and innovation, through appropriate, fair or reciprocal energy use and exchange,)
autopoiesis, (self-organization, self-discipline, self-responsibility in individual parts, organisms or individuals,)
feedback awareness self, other and awareness and use of consequences,
adaptability (choice, responsibility, freedom,)
natural compression or centralization because of differential tensions and stresses between different parts and different wholes resulting in some cases in eventual unification into new wholes and unions of greater cooperation and scale though new integration and synergies,
order, harmony, transparency, interdependence in existing and new wholes, groups and unions,
predictability or control of the environment through understanding universe evolutionary processes.
self, other, group and universe consciousness and--- self, other, group and universe reflection, and finally,
possible transcendence. (Once all potentials for the individual and species developmental progress have been exhausted the unique and exciting possibility of the the individual and the human species somehow transcending themselves into something new once again presents itself --- just as at the end of optimal development of every universe part and whole union there also exists the rare opportunity for that individual part or whole/union to transcend conditions or into something new or more.)
From the above information on the progressive directionality of evolution one could easily propose that the highest overall and core common life purpose of the individual and humanity is:
"To first understand and then align one's actions with the direction and values of universe progressive evolution while still meeting individual needs for survival and reproduction, and then as a partner and co-creator of evolution (an Evolutioner,) contribute to the very forwarding of progressive evolution of humanity both here on Earth and eventually out into the stars."
Within this single meta-goal and purpose can be contained all of the other worthwhile personal. meaningful and life-affirming goals from every other area of life such as politics, economics, society, religion etc.
The Potentials of Individuals and Humanity Seen from an Evolutionary Perspective:
It is hard to limit the non-physical potentials to transcend into something more for either an individual or humanity as a whole. To do so, one would first exhaust all individual and human species possibilities and potentials for growth listed above. In the developmental progress steps of universe evolution described above one see a healthy progressive evolutionary cycle of human life more clearly defined that most people have seen or learned in traditional biology, cosmology, theology or philosophy classes.
The progressive cyclical nature of the core patterns of universe evolution (above) can be seen either as:
a.) each new thing emerges and enacts the cycle of progression evolution as best as it can or,
b.) when in the cycle of development for a particular thing reaches the transcendence level --- at that very point with that emergence of that something new --- a new cycle of progressive evolutionary development begins again for that new emergent new part.
From the above, one could also easily deduce that for a human life to be optimally fulfilled and reach its full potential it would need to:
1.) address and/or manifest (align and contribute to,) the various developmental steps of evolution above to some degree and in some form of balance. (One could even write a very powerful argument that the objective, multi-facted and science-grounded "meaning of evolving individual human life" is both well described and comprehensively contained within the developmental growth steps of progressive evolution described above.)
2. attain full human species potential by humanity creating a just, safe and sustainable planetary civilization here on Earth that will one day go out into the stars.
3.) utilize amazing opportunity afforded by modern science to enhance the biology of both the individual and species through genetic engineering. (At this point humanity might even be able to create new species or artificial intelligence life forms in robots to do the things that even genetically enhanced and engineered humans could not do at this time such as, going out into deep space to our nearest star system.)
We see the potentials of these new technology areas being eventually researched and well managed with necessary ethical guidelines, scientific safeguards and international law so that humanity can safely and wisely explore, create and evolve in these areas in a way that assigns appropriate rights and responsibilities and healthy boundaries to each new area of technology creativity. We see and hope at some point in the far distant future that traditional humans, genetically enhanced humans, human-created forms of new life forms, such as cyborgs, self-conscious, self-organizing artificial intelligence (possibly housed within robots,) and clones will develop both in parallel (and possibly also within their own ecological niches,) and all coexist peacefully and cooperatively and be parts of a healthy overall universe ecosystem as humanity and its human created "children" move out into the stars and universe.
Although our organization does not agree with a few of the ideas contained within the following new book, it currently best expresses much of our current, complex, nuanced and detailed positions and issues surrounding some of the limits on individual and species potentials, genetic engineering, biotech, nanotech, artificial intelligence, artificial life, cybernetics, ect. The book is called Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential: A Cosmic View for our Future Evolution by Ted Chu, PhD. (Available early 2014. We see this book as the most motivating and inspirational overview of what it means to be an Evolutioner and planetary and universe citizen. Ted presents the "next generation" specifics on what inspired conscious evolution in alignment with evolutionary science looks like. His vision of the future of technological evolution and humanity's role in it is well grounded in history and science and it will stretch the vision of the biggest evolutionary thinkers and universe citizens. At Universe Spirit we now recommend that every new member reads this book as part of their intermediate level education on what it takes to be an authentic Evolutioneer and universe citizen forwarding evolution on Earth and then out into the universe.)
4.) There are many other individual and human species potentials derived from the alignment with the progressive direction of evolution in the universe. Send us some of your ideas!
How to Use the Processes, Principles and Directionality of Universe Evolution in Practical Daily Ways to Optimize Your Life Success
The above description of the core processes of the expanding levels of complexity found within universe evolution are the progressive directionality of evolution and life! These processes, which have been repeatedly demonstrated and tested over 13.7 billion years of evolutionary testing can also be viewed as core evolutionary interests, values, goals and even as a partial implied statement of practical evolutionary ethics.
They are the most vital directionalized actions and behaviors that align with and forward the progressive directionality of universe evolution and life sustainably. As such, they are important processes and "value interests" to know and apply to every area of life.
It is the this application of what we call the Universe Principles of Sustainability that a true and meaningful sustainable prosperity for all can be achieved. The above processes of progressive evolutionary directionality have been creatively turned into daily life-guiding success principles.
Click the Universe Principles of Sustainability link to go to these empowering, practical and vital day-to-day living success principles. The new Universe Principles of Sustainability short form is found by clicking here for the Right Actions of Part 1 and by clicking here for the Right Attitudes of Part 2.
Keep in mind that the Universe Principles of Sustainability are not just for personal use. They are ideal for creating successful and sustainable groups, communities and businesses of all kinds and sizes right up to national and international sized communities.
(For more information on how the steps and levels of progressive evolution contains all of the other worthwhile, meaningful and life-affirming purposes of life from every other area of life such as politics, economics, society, religion etc., click here.)
First working draft published Jan 27th 2014.