Archive for February, 2008

The Evolution of Evolution

 In his book Energy and the Evolution of Life, Ronald F. Fox writes of the energonomics of evolution.  I wrote about this book a couple of years ago (see Energy and the Evolution of Life), when I first got the book.  It’s quite technical and elaborate, complete with scary math-equations and what-not.  But those with a general education and curious nature can get a sense of the ideas he presents.  I jus recently picked it up again and peaked at the end, where he speaks of the evolution of evolution–that is, the evolution of what he calls “energy coupling,” the evolution of energy flow.   As he writes, “The mechanism of evolution is evolving as a natural consequence of the continuing evolution of energy coupling” (165).  The book is a survey of this evolution, which starts from the origins of life on this planet and walks the reader through the chemistry and physics of energy flow, through to the development of nervous systems.  In this passage Fox emphasizes the radical nature of how evolution has evolved:

*the biological advantage of this advanced nervous system system is to rapidly simulate the prediction of nonlinear events.* This step in the long history of biological evolution has critically altered the mechanism of evolution itself and transcends the genetic mechanism of Darwinian selection (156).

This is where we launch into the significance of sociology (or social psychology) as the next phase of energonomic study and as an indication of how energonomics is a form of “consilience.”  Fox’s book ends with a section called “Social Evolution” where he mentions that, “With brain, a new kind of life has emerged: multiindividual organisms. Humans are among them…. The emergent behavior of these metazoan collectives is predicated on the types of energy that the collective processes” (166).  I would add to this how it processes the energy (e.g. do we channel our brain energy away from the amygdala and toward the pre-frontal lobes?).

Fox ends the book with a question of whether or not we will survive the latest evolution of energy production.  Are we physiologically capable of making the necessary cultural adaptions at this stage of the game?  I will quote the last paragraph in its entirety:

A refinement in cultural mechanisms has occurred with every refinement of energy flux coupling. Some steps have led to dramatic, emergent behavior.  The practice of collective agriculture made an enormous impact, as did the advent of metallurgy and the bronze and iron ages. Recently, the nuclear age has followed the electricity age, closely and intimately. Suddenly, a new source of energy flux is available.  Is it possible that the energy flux parameter has now increased to a point that could drive the nonlinear, dynamical process called civilization to chaos? Or is man’s nervous system sufficiently advanced to predict future events and establish effective control mechanisms? (166)

I remain hopeful that the answer to the last question is YES.

9 February 2008 at 2:10 pm 2 comments

The Energy in Poetry

I recently read the YA “verse novel” Your Own, Silvia by Stephanie Hemphill, an excellent introduction to the life of Sylvia Plath, which got me into her poetry as well as the poetry of Ted Hughes, her husband.  I checked out the Modern Critical Views (edited by Harold Bloom) on Sylvia Plath and found an essay in there titled “Aspects of Energy in the Poetry of Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath” by D.F. McKay.  McKay introduces a conception of literary criticism which can be aligned with my concept of energonomics:  his goal is to discover/uncover the energy at the heart of the poem as a speech-act of meaning.  He writes in the introduction that

most modern experimental poets have been preoccupied with the charge of language, the energy with which meaning is conveyed.  In extreme instances, to extend the generalization, energy consumes meaning the way fire feeds on matter… (17).

Some poetry, according to McKay, “concentrates upon energy–its generation, control and unleashing,” and he suggests that we “keep another metaphor uppermost in mind:  meaning as a conductor of energy, serving to deliver it as a wire conducts electricity” (18).

 In my conception of energonomics, as in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy, this process is not a metaphor but a literal, ontological fact.

4 February 2008 at 9:04 pm Leave a comment

Poor Energy Management

In the “Thinking Green” section of the Boston Metro from 1/22/2008, the title of the article is “Israel vows to go electric by 2011.”  The pull-out quote, by entrepeneur Shai Agassi, reads:

Our planet’s battery got charged over hundreds of millions of years, and yet we have consumed half the world’s oil in one century.

We’ve known this for many decades now but only now are choosing to act on the knowledge.

1 February 2008 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment


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