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I've been writing about bottom up and doing a radio show on it for about eight years. Over that time my thinking has evolved. It went from a pretty simple idea that involved grassroots and crowd-related stuff to the idea that bottom up is a kind of intelligence, just as Howard Gardner has described, in his multiple intelligences model, interpersonal, intra-personal and visual spatial forms of intelligence that can lead to success. I'll get into this further, later in the article, including discussing how this kind of intelligence has been dumbed down within industrial civilization.

Bottom-Up Systems

When I went into that eight year stretch of exploration of the top down and bottom-up worlds I viewed bottom up as applying to grassroots activism, management that included input from all levels of the employee hierarchy and basic internet social media and crowd-related projects—crowd sourcing, crowd funding. I encountered many amazing thought leaders at what has become my favorite annual conference, Personal Democracy Forum—people like Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, Jack Dorsey, inventor and co-founder of Twitter, Robin Chase, founder of Zipcars, and many other thought leaders and revolutionaries. They helped me flesh out my vision of the tech potential of bottom up.

But the biggest light bulbs of insight went off for me when I encountered the work of three people.

First, Fritjof Capra, who inspired me to do a series of articles, Fritjof Capra—The Systems View of Life; Interviews, Book Review, related articles, refreshed and reinvigorated my longtime interest in systems theory and non-linear dynamics/chaos theory. Systems theory is a new kind of science that looks at patterns, relationships and connections instead of parts and quantification. Integrating systems theory into my bottom-up model inspired me to to conclude that "connection consciousness" is essential for a sustainable, kind, compassionate future. Connection consciousness is awareness of all the ways you are connected to everything—to all the systems—tech, cultural, ecological.

Then I learned of Darcia Narvaez's extraordinary book, Neurobiology of the Development of Human Morality. I've done a series of interviews with her. Two of the three are published here:"Darcia Narvaez on the Neurobiology of Morality, Narcissism, Psychopaths, Sociopaths, Empathy, Connection" and a third one will be released this week, also, included in the series. Narvaez's work tied together two incredibly important threads that I've been dealing wit—the anthropological, aboriginal aspects of bottom up and the roots, and perhaps, the solutions to the massive problem humanity has with narcissists, psychopaths and sociopaths.

Narvaez persuasively argues that humans evolved, for 99% of their millions of years of existence, to be raised in what she calls an ancestral parenting environment of the hunter gatherer band. She suggests that there are hundreds of aspects of neurobiological aspects of our nervous system and our endocrine systems that are epigenetically primed to unfold, but only if we are raised, from birth, in the ancestral parenting environment—one where there is far more skin and eye contact, where the whole band raises the child.

To become fully human, as millions of years of evolution shaped humanity, we must expose children to the environmental stimuli, to ancestral parenting, in order for those hundreds of neurobiological epigenetic potentials to fully bloom.

To understand this, you need to understand epigenetics. Consider a redwood tree seed. It has all the genetic material of an redwood seed. Put it in a bucket of dry sand and you get one set of responses. The epigenetic potential that could unfold does not happen. Put the seed in sand and add water and a stunted, malformed version of a tree may grow. But put the seed in a forest in good soil and give it the water it needs and that same seed changes and grows to become a magnificent specimen towering high. Humans have hundreds of neurobiological "seeds" which lie dormant, or worse, grow stunted and malformed. To become fully human, as millions of years of evolution shaped humanity, we must expose children to the environmental stimuli, to ancestral parenting, in order for those hundreds of neurobiological epigenetic potentials to fully bloom.

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Narvaez describes how, when a person is raised so her neurobiological epigenetic potential is maximally optimized, she sees everything with an imagination that includes the community, the ecological system. She experiences deep empathy and caring, because that's how her nervous system, in it's fully bloomed maturity, works. I call that connection consciousness. But I've also come to believe that this amounts to a kind of intelligence—a way of seeing, being, relating and doing that includes consideration of far reaching consequences. This bottom up, connection consciousness leads to people seeing opportunities and problems that others don't see.

The truth is, our modern industrial civilization, for the most part, produces an environment that is more like the wet sand than the deep forest, producing people who are often profoundly impaired. The worst become sadistic, narcissists or psychopaths, with zero empathy. There is no easy answer to this problem. It is very hard, for first world people, to produce the kind of environment required by ancestral parenting. But conscious parents can do a lot to make things better. Many governments require employers to give anywhere from three months to two years of parental leave. This is an investment in the future that must be expanded.

My takeaway from Narvaez's work is that bottom up is deeply programmed into our DNA, but that our current culture failed to potentiate the full intelligence and connection conscious vision that we could be manifesting.

An early tenet of my work, developing a vision of bottom up, has been that the internet and smart phones have been catalysts, changing the top-down, bottom-up balance in our culture. Narvaez's work helped to gel my realization that this catalyzation has been so powerful because the epigenetic programming was already there, coiled in our genes, ready to spring into fullness.

Last but not least, E.F. Schumacher, author of the classic book, Small Is Beautiful, has inspired me. My article series, Small is Better than Big; small acts, world, economics, lifestyles, solutions, activism", reflects that aspect of my interest in small vs. big. I've come to believe that top down is big. Bottom up is smaller. Bottom-up systems can be huge. They can, with all their subsystems, include the entire planet. But they are fractal, meaning they exist at many levels.

I'm writing a whole book on bottom up that goes into much more detail on all of these ideas, and I've written a series of over 125 articles addressing different aspects of top down and bottom up.

I'm hoping that here, in the comments, we can have a conversation about the idea that bottom up is a kind of intelligence, a way of seeing and knowing that can be taught in school, a value system that is instilled in children when they are raised with more rather than less ancestral parenting.


Rob Kall