LifeOS: exploring the system that executes DNA

May 19, 2014

Meet the Forest Goddess-podcast

System, Symbiosis and the Forest GoddessMeet the Forest Goddess 15 minute podcast

The animations are taking longer than i had hoped, so i’m moving forward with the podcast versions.

Here’s the transcript:
Meet the Forest Goddess

You have met the forest goddess before, probably many times. You just might not recognize her signs. You thought that it was just fear that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up that night when you heard that wolf howl or the time you heard something rustling in the bushes outside your tent. You thought it was just your love of beauty that gave you goosebumps when you saw that mountain reflected in the lake at dawn. That feeling is your subconscious interacting with the forest on an emotional level. It is communication between you and the Forest Goddess.

That emotional response is part of the Natural warning system that is the most obvious manifestation of the Forest Goddess. All the animals, the birds and insects are reacting the same way you do. Their hair stands on end, too. They are reacting and communicating on a very complex and high level.
Most importantly is that our bodies and subconscious minds speak this language. The hair standing up on the back of my neck when the wolf howls or the owl hoots, is evidence of this.Eventually we find a place to sit, where we can wait for the warnings to die down.

Slowly the sounds change as some creatures forget we are here. Others aren’t alarmed as long as we remain still. Listen to the sounds, creatures large and small singing their songs, shouting their location, crying the news of their neighborhood. Close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you in waves of meaning. “Here I am, Life is good, Let’s get it on”, repeated over and over, in countless forest dialects.

And everybody is listening as well. One creature’s mating call sounds the dinner bell for another. This wall of sound is just one level of the communication going on in the forest. And we humans can hear only a very narrow band of sound vibrations at that.

Then take color. Here is a totally different spectrum of communication. Color has meaning by itself; it is used for identification, signaling ripeness, time for mating and other environmental cues. Another instance of only a narrow band of vibrations being available to our consciousness. The communications continue up and down the scale in wave lengths invisible to us.

The air around us is filled with molecules of fragrance and stench, pheromones attracting and repelling. On every level the forest is a sea of information woven into a tapestry of meaning: alerting, selecting, advertising, camouflaging, promising and deceiving.

On the microscopic level, every cell of every life form communicates with the cells around it. They respond to messages brought to them by hormones through blood streams, electric impulses from nerves and by way of their wireless connections. All input is compared to its history. Every action is remembered, every failure flagged, every success reinforced. That’s going on at the cellular level in all living things.

The process is reflected in behavior at the creature level as well. Every physical entity within an ecosystem compares their input to their history and remembers their successes and failures. So do the symbiotic relationships. Your brain works the very same way. Our neurons communicate with other neurons, respond to neurotransmitters and fire in waves that we interpret as experience. Communication is a fundamental aspect of living things.

Because language seems to set us apart from the animal world, we have concluded that it is only the advanced human brain that can create and communicate information. That’s our claim to fame as intelligent beings, we communicate. However, its is intelligent communication that makes all living systems alive. Communication is fundamental to biological systems.

Sit with me here beneath the oldest tree, the one with the most rings of memory, the largest network connecting Sky and Earth, the most symbiotic partners, the most descendants and thus a main communications hub in this local expression of the Forest Goddess System.

Besides the communication networks we can see and hear all around us, there are more. Beneath our feet the soil is laced with bacterial and fungal growth intertwined into a multilevel communications network. This thick mat of interwoven microbial fibers interconnects trillions, upon trillions of nodes, in a complex network of neuron-like connections. Modern science claims that plants do not have a nervous system because they can’t find anything that looks like one. However, this bacterial/fungal mat looks exactly like a nervous system. It works like one as well. What the network does is pass information and nutrients. This is yet another level of communication in the forest. What could the microbial underground have to talk about? For one, if you were to die here in the forest, this CSI team would take you apart cell by cell, and report to the system exactly what you are made of.

In fact, the information gathered by every living thing in the forest eventually ends up being deconstructed by the microbes dominating the forest floor and soil beneath. When there is a fatality, it is the microbes who dismantle the fallen and investigate the internal information stored in their tissue and memory. When we plot the feedback loops active in the forest system we find they all cycle back through this microbial mat.

We have learned to mimic Natural systems with our language, art and music, and express them in abstract social structures. With all of our acquired skill and knowledge we are late comers to the game. The fractal power laws we have discovered that build our complex communications networks have been in use in biological systems from the beginning. Our most sophisticated information processing technology is nothing when compared to what our nervous system provides for us: a living, breathing, feeling, human experience.

A forest is a complex system involving a huge number of creatures that act in concert and adapt to changing conditions. Population levels follow the ebb and flow of Sunlight and moisture. Species adapt, they come and go, both filling and defining a pattern of interlocking, interdependent niches that result in a functional unit, a system. What seems at first to be a random collection of plants and animals, each doing their own thing independent of the rest, is really a highly organized web of interdependencies every bit as alive as any of its inhabitants.

Studying the forest as a system can show us relationships not visible in other views. For example, an organ is a subsystem, performing a task for the benefit of a larger system, the body. We can see plants and animals as subsystems that perform functions within the larger system, the forest.

An organ, say your stomach, is a unit that has a physical location and a specific function within the digestive system. Our organs are a set of processing chambers connected by tubes. This network of processing and transport stations extracts energy from nutrients and eliminates waste.

We tend to get hung up on the human-centric model of what makes an individual entity. We like to have our individuals enclosed in a skin, but we find a systems definition expands the concept to include groups of symbiotic partners within the forest. For example, take a look at the nest of the leaf cutter ant. These ants hollow out huge underground nests that function very much like a body. Their nest is a set of chambers connected by tubes. These chambers act as organs in a body, each performing similar bodily functions like digestion and reproduction. Instead of using a blood stream, in this system the ants carry and deliver nutrients where needed. So we can identify the ant colony as a system, much like a body, but without specific boundaries enclosed by skin.

Within the forest we can identify many subsystems that fit this model. There are many species of animals, birds, insects, plants and fungi, all linked by their symbiotic relationships into a system every bit as organized as a human body. As a unit it breaths in and out, intakes and digests nutrients, eliminates waste, while growing, reproducing and dispersing, as would any creature.

The forest is the mother system that uses the combined individual strategies of its member subsystems to accumulate and organize biomass into a super organism. This organism reaches high into the atmosphere to exchange gases and gather Sunlight, and deep into the Earth for water and nutrients. The matter and energy thus gathered is distributed throughout the forest, supplying each cell and subsystem with its needs, in a steady flow. That is quite an accomplishment.

Industry has learned just how difficult it can be to organize an efficient supply chain. As assembly lines got faster and more efficient, a real challenge for the supple chain to keep up. Attempts to warehouse supplies produced huge storage facilities that cost a lot of money and weren’t all that efficient. The solution was to use computers to keep track of every part, every nut and bolt from design to final assembly. This allowed them to engineer a steady flow of supplies without huge warehouses or assembly line delays.

There doesn’t appear to be any other way to accomplish this level of efficiency except to keep track of absolutely everything effecting the system. As the system grows and changes, all supply channels must be adjusted to accomodate new flow requirements. This is really a difficult challenge, no easy task. How does Nature do it? With intent, intelligence and of course, communication.
All of these subsystems work together by communicating, internally and externally. Communication through feedback loops is what a system does. All that communication is part of an infinite number of feedback loops passing the information that regulates all activity.

When we discover a new communications channel in Natural Systems, like when they discovered that pine trees were alerting other pine trees that they were being attacked by certain bugs. In the African forest the acacia trees were alerting each other that they were being overgrazed by the kudus. The trees emmitted gases through the air. That’s communication. We think, oh wow, they learned to communicate, but that’s what all cells do, all living things do is communicate. That’s how they work.

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