Today we’re going to be talking about a few ideas I haven’t touched on on MasterSelf before. If you’ve been following the site for a while, you may have noticed that things have changed a bit recently. Whereas I started MasterSelf with the vague idea of talking about self-improvement, over time I realized that what this site really is is an attempt to create a coherent theory of the Self, and to outline how the Self fits into the world of others, as well as in the universe as a whole. This shift has moved us in a more complex philosophical direction, yes, but a direction in which we can tackle more interesting and original topics than the infinite number of self-help gurus out there nowadays. The first thing we’re going to talk about is what I call the Will to Order.
If you’re still with it, let’s boogie.
Consider this in a similar vein to Nietzsche’s Will to Power (which according to Steafan Fox is more accurately explained as the Will to Macht (meaning Make), but we won’t go too far into Nietzsche here. Now, the Will to Order here is the human subset of the larger phenomenon that science apparently calls the tendency towards complexity- the observation that the universe (and most importantly, the organisms in it) seem to get more complex over time.
We can look at biological, DNA-based life as something like the product of (or a record of) chaotic events, and the ordered product that arose from them. If we’re assuming the primordial ooze (they prefer to call it soup, but that’s nowhere near as entertaining) of creation as the operative theory, then essentially what we have is this chaotic system of ooze that had enough chemical reactions in it to form a self-replicating molecule. In the most basic sense, life is what survives, and what survives is what reproduces. Out of this chaotic system, the thing that survived and reproduced was probably some proto-RNA-like organic molecule, which through some ongoing process (a product of the tendency towards order) became more complex and created the DNA that birthed every living thing on this planet.
(From Darren Aronofsky’s superb film Noah.)
That, in itself, is a trippy thought.
Now, the question I always asked myself here was, “Why didn’t life just stay as a simple single-celled, asexually reproducing organism?” That answer is expanded on expertly in Matt Ridley’s phenomenal book, “The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature.” (This book is required reading, in my opinion.) I’ll make the attempt to summarize the points we need for our sake here. Because of continual environmental threats, life became more complex and, in the process, more sturdy. Eventually, pathogens were somehow built in this mix of chaotic particle-ordering, and it’s because of pathogens that sexual reproduction arose (it increases genetic diversity and thus disease-resistance).
This process of increasing evolutionary complexity also allowed (forced?) these organisms to expand to different environments, which prompted further adaptations and biodiversity. Eventually, they moved from ooze to sea to land (and occasionally back to sea again), and we ended up where we are today. That’s the most barebones explanation of evolutionary biology that I can muster, and if that’s insufficient, please let me know. It should suffice for the purposes of the argument that I’m making.
Let’s look at it from a different angle. You have a box of Legos (molecules, chemicals, whatever goes into proto-life), and this box is called the universe. There’s a nigh-infinite number of Legos (don’t step on them, they’re everywhere), and there is also a nigh-infinite amount of energetic forces acting on these Legos by (more or less) shaking the box.
Across the billions of years that this box is being shaken, many of the Legos stick together. Some of those combinations are various elements, some are molecules, some are chemicals, and so on. They have their own properties, and some of these react with each other. We could even argue that this process goes down all the way to the quantum level, but I don’t know enough about quantum physics to argue that. On principle, it would seem that it does.
Now, something about the nature of the universe seems to either force this complexity at the base level, or (in my theory which will be outlined in a later article) this process is a result of a universal law that has yet to be understood. We’ll leave the “why” of that for later. For the time being, though, we can either assume that either “oh, it’s all just random and the logical causal relationship of events applies to everything but this process” or “there’s a logic to this,” but both will work fine as long as we agree that this tendency towards order exists.
Now, as we can see, humans are something like the volitional children of this process. We have clearly inherited this tendency towards order as what I named earlier- the Will to Order. The Will to Order here is exemplified by the progression of Man through history from roaming hunter-gatherer bands to larger clan/tribes, to city-states, and eventually nations (and multinational conglomerates like the late USSR [sucks to suck, commies] and EU). In each of these systems, there’s effectively the power-conflict social dynamic, where dominant members compete for hierarchical position to obtain power and make use of the power to order (or reorder) society.
(Unrelated: Go watch Noah if you haven’t, it’s a gorgeous movie.)
Now, very often the ability to obtain power and the wisdom to use it well are not present in the same people, so there’s the whole history of bad kings killing the wise, wise people complaining about the bad kings killing them, and the occasional wise king who makes everything great until he gets old or the people defy him for virtue of being morons. If you don’t think that’s an accurate description of human history, you're wrong.
A number of people have introduced similar concepts, like the Four Turnings theory and the nice and succinct quote from G. Michael Hopf,
“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”
This mainly works because people are idiots who refuse to learn history. That may be an overgeneralization (you’re not an idiot- I love you, remember?), so let’s expand on this. I’d argue that in any social environment, you have a given number of actors who have a different worldview or mental schema. The social environment is something like a testing ground for these schemas (Will-driven frameworks that seek to order the world), which will compete for dominance, then use gained dominance to alter the hierarchy, and through this hierarchy-alteration, redirect the values of the social environment.
Through this process, we get something like a Darwinistic value-testing machine. Even if you’re strong and win all the fights, if your values are out of alignment with reality, you fall. Babylon fell, Jerusalem fell, Rome fell, the Nazis fell, the USSR fell, and anyone who tries to replicate these failed order-systems of value (Venezuela, anyone?) will fall as well. This is the paradox of things- if you are strong enough to enforce an irrational (meaning “out of agreement with reality” here) value system, you can survive long enough for your society to rot within. If you are not strong enough, it does not matter how rational your system is (sorry, Crete, peace is not a viable option) because you get conquered. The takeaway here is that the world is cruel, people are often stupid, and cruel, stupid people will come for you eventually, so prepare or die.
The obvious conclusion, and what I think we are inevitably going to be forced to produce, is a highly ordered system that has both values rooted in reality and the capacity to do violence to those who would seek to overthrow it. If we assume that this is the necessary result of the process, it should be fairly obvious that there is no nation on this planet that is currently oriented in such a way. We should anticipate either the emergence of such an ordered social environment, or a perpetual chain of imperfect systems for the rest of eternity. I choose the former, because I’m not a pessimist and also because of the obvious history of increasing complexity. Time will tell.
We could argue that these imperfect systems competing operate similarly to the pathogens that forced evolution to get increasingly more complex. However, I’m willing to bet that this current level of conflict must be solved before we become interplanetary, at which point we’ll probably then have some greater conflict to deal with. That sounds like a problem that a different generation will have to deal with, however, so we’ll leave it for now. Sorry, aliens.
Now, let’s zoom back in to the level of the individual. Each of us has a personal Will to Order- this is the force that leads you to ask questions, understand the world, and if you’re really on top of things, clean your room. Jordan Peterson’s popularity is almost certainly a manifestation of this unseen ordering principle rising against our increasingly disordered, entropic society. This Will is the thing that motivates you to improve (to master self, if you will), and it is the thing that creates cognitive dissonance (because your brain is literally wired to rectify issues).
Order is a big deal,
I would go so far as to say that the Will to Order is the most basic possible human drive (and more deeply, something like the “purpose” of life itself). Your body is literally a machine that takes in air, food, and water, and uses those things to order itself- these are all required to maintain homeostasis. Life, then, seems to be increasing in complexity to increase the amount of raw universe-energy it can convert into order. As humans, we take rocks and dinosaur-juices out of the ground and, rather than leaving them to sit there uselessly, we turn them into cool stuff like computers (that are synthetic order-systems) and badass race cars (that are just plain awesome).
Now, I’d argue that most people are not conscious of this inherent drive that is the Will to Order, unless you know that you have OCD or you work intimately with some efficiency-related field (ergonomics?). Because it’s something like the drive under all drives, it isn’t always manifested consciously. That’s why we get badass race cars, even though they’re not practical for anything beyond a money pit for rich people with low self-esteem and the Game of Games that is Nascar. More vaguely, this is why money runs elections and also why no one much cares about how a poor person (re: Marxist) thinks the world’s economy should work.
Money is another manifestation of this order-system. Any kind of money is fundamentally a representation of value, and if you look at the companies that have made the most money, they are generally those that created the most value (by helping the larger system increase in net order). The oil and railroad tycoons drove the development of factories and connected the various smaller networks of the country, so their founders became rich. The big computer companies increased the capacity of people to process information far beyond the natural ability of the mind, and made this ability to increase order processing to the people for extremely low prices (consider the original room-sized computers versus the one you’re reading this on.)
Technology is essentially reduced to this- it increases the efficiency of a certain action (tools), it decreases the effort to connect different markets (logistics and supply chain [Amazon being the pinnacle of this]), it amplifies the ability to process information (electronics), or it increases the ease of information transfer (the internet, and later social media). There are probably more broad categories than just these, but you get the gist. (If you think of others, let me know.)
If you can see the pattern I’m trying to illustrate, you’ll realize that we can attempt to define life itself as “that which orders.” This is the extreme significance of the tendency towards order, and the origin of the human Will to Order. This is a fascinating concept, because when you recognize it within yourself, you will have a massive advantage over those that do not. It will push you to become more efficient, more organized, more driven, and to align yourself with reality. Understand that you, as an individual, are the bleeding edge of this ordering force, and it is your choice to either embrace this as guiding principle, or to operate unconsciously as an agent of chaos in the world.
Which will you choose?