But the point i that this intricate developmental process in the cell is something we can barely describe, let alone understand. Do you realize limits of your understanding? Mathematically, we can describe two things interacting, like two planets in space. Three things interacting – like three planets in space – well, that becomes a problem. Foutr or five things interacting, we can't really do it. And inside the cell, there's one hundred thousand things interacting. You have to throw up your hands. It is so complex – how is it even possible that life happens at all? Some people think the answer is that living forms organize themselves. Life creates its own order, the way crystalization creates order. Some people think life crystalizes into being, and that's how complexity is managed.
"Because, if you didn't know any any physical chemistry, you could look at a crystal and ask all the sam questions You'd see those beautiful spars, those perfect geometric facets, and you could ask. What's controlling this process? How does the crystal end up so perfectly formed – and looking so much like other crystals? But it turns out a crystal is just the way molecular forces arrange themselves in solid form. No one controls it. It happens on its own. o ask a lot of questions about crystal means you don't understand the fundamental nature of the processes that lead to its creation.
"So maybe living forms are kind of crystalization. Maybe life just happens. And maybe, like crystals, there's characteristic order to living things that is generated by their interacting elements. Well, one of the things that crystals teach us is that order can arise very fast. One minute you have a liquid, with all the molecules moving randomly. The next minute, a crystal forms, and all the molecules are locked in order. Right?"
Okay. Now. Think of the interaction of living forms on the planet to make an ecosystem. That's even more complex than a single animal. All the arrangements are very complicated. Like the yucca plant. You know about that?"
The yucca plant depends ona particular moth which gathers pollen into a ball, and carries the ball to a different plant – not a different flower of the same plant – where it rubs the ball on the plant, fertilizing it. Only then does the moth lay its eggs. The yucca plant can't survive without the moth. The moth can't survive without the plant. Complex interactions like that make you think maybe behavior is a kind of crystalization, too."
"I'm talking about all the order in the natural world," Malcolm said. "And how perhaps it can emerge fast, through crystalization. Because complex animals can evolve their behavior rapidly. CHanges can ocur very quickly. Human beings are transforming the planet, and nobody knows wheter it's a dangerous developement or not. So these behavioral processes can happen faster than we usually think evolution occurs. In ten thousand years human beings have gone from hunting to farming to cities to cyberspace. Behaviour is screaming forward, and it might be nonadaptative. Nobody knows. Although personally. I think cyberspace means the end of our species."
"Because it means the end of innovation. This idea that the whole world is wired togther is mass death. Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest. You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they'll evolve very fast. You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slows down. Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behaviur. We innovate new behaviour to adapr. And everybody on earth knows that inovation only occurs in small groups. Put three people on a comittee and they may get someting done. Ten people, and it gets harder. Thirty people, and nothing happens. Thirty million, it becomes impossible. That's the effect of mass media – it keeps anything from happening. Mass media swamps diversity. It makes every place the same. Bangkok or Tokyo or London: there's a McDoanld's on one corner, a Benetton on another, a Gap across the street. Regional differences vanish. All differences vanish. In a mass-media world, there's less off everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rainforest. But what about intelectual diversity – our most neccesary resource? Thats disappearing faster than trees. But we haven't figured that out, so now we're planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace. And it'll freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. Everyone will think the same thing at the same time. And it'' freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. [...]