Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 9, Iss. 3, July, 2005, pp. 235-280
@2005 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Third Nature: The Co-Evolution of Human Behavior, Culture, and Technology

William A. Johnston, University of Utah

Abstract: Within a dynamical-systems framework, human behavior is seen as emergent from broad evolutionary processes associated with three basic forms of nature. First nature, matter, emerged from the big bang some 12-15 billion years ago; second nature, life, from the first bacteria up to 4 billion years ago; third nature, ideology and cultural artifacts (e.g., institutions and technology), with a shift to self-reflective, symbolic thought and agrarianism in humans some 8-40 thousand years ago. The co-evolution of these three natures has dramatically altered human behavior and its relationship to the whole planet. Third nature has infused human minds with several powerful ideas, or memes, including the idea of progress. These ideas have fueled the evolution of a complex institutional order (e.g., political systems and technology) and myriad attendant global problems (e.g., wars and environmental degradation). The human brain/mind is seen as the primary medium by which third nature governs human behavior and, therefore, self perpetuates.

Keywords: three natures, co-evolution, institutional order, fitness landscapes