Steve Jobs and the Evolution of Consciousness and Technology

There is an extensive body of research that suggests that there are distinct evolutionary stages of individual and collective human consciousness, and that these stages co-evolve with developmental stages of techno-economic system growth. One of the scales used for these correlated stages was put forth by American philosopher and psycho-social researcher Ken Wilber. This scale correlates the Mythic, Rational, Pluralistic, and Integral stages of human and cultural consciousness with the techno-economic stages of the Agricultural, Industrial, Informational, and now the emerging Convergence Age.

As individual humans in all spheres (science, technology, art, philosophy, etc.) evolve through the various stages of consciousness, their created works reflect these stages and act as catalysts for the evolution of the consciousness of other individuals and their cultures and societies. Along this co-evolutionary path, there have been and continue to be certain individuals who are major contributors to this process, including Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Rene Descartes, Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud, among many others.

Since the recent passing of Steve Jobs, there have been many who have commented on his profound influence on our world, and on his possible ranking with some of these other evolutionary-influencing individuals. I believe they are correct in this assessment, because the technological devices that Steve Jobs helped to create and share with the world are, on the most basic level, powerful and elegant convergence devices.

The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are tools that integrate and converge previously separate technologies and their corresponding individual, cultural, and social functions (i.e., the phone is no longer just a phone, it is also a computer, calculator, appointment book, portable music and video player, gaming console, etc.). The ramifications of this convergence extend from the way we perceive our world to the way the world around us works. Embedded in these convergence tools and their converging functions is the Integral structure of consciousness, which allows us to perceive self, culture, and world in deeper, more expansive, and more integrated ways. In light of this, I would indeed say that so far Steve Jobs is one of the major individual contributors to the emergence of the Convergence Age, and that we owe him and those that have come before him our deepest respect and gratitude. Thanks Steve!

Transpersonal 2.0

The writings of Ken Wilber have been a lightening rod in the transpersonal movement from early on, being both heralded as foundational theory and attacked for being too linear, hierarchical, complex, etc. Recently I have found myself straddling across two realms of the transpersonal movement, and the demarcation point appears to be pre-SES (“Sex, Ecology, Spirituality”) Wilber and post-SES Wilber influenced. The pre-SES realm of the transpersonal movement focuses on Wilber’s early works as foundational to the movement and continues to hold this early work as representational of Wilber’s theories in general while not seriously taking into account Wilber’s post-SES works as being essential to transpersonal theory. This dimension of the transpersonal movement I am calling Transpersonal 1.0, or pre-Integral Theory Wilber. With the publication of SES, Wilber shifted his theories away from his previous works in essential ways; instead of primarily addressing patterns and structures of psychology, spirituality, and consciousness Wilber moved into the development of a “Theory of Everything” attempting to integrate all dimensions of human perception and experience. At this stage, many perceive that a rift grew between the transpersonal movement and Wilber (and his followers).

 To be fair, many contend that Wilber himself contributed to this rift by separating himself from the transpersonal movement and attempting to form a new approach based on his Integral Theory. The common perception is that Wilber’s reasoning for this was that the transpersonal movement was stuck in a limited worldview. In Wilber’s post-SES model or Integral Theory, he places a major emphasis on altitudes of consciousness and the corresponding worldviews. From this perspective, we can see that the transpersonal movement was born out of the pluralistic worldview, and for the most part, transpersonal 1.0 was and is essentially stuck in this worldview. One of the problems with this is that while being born in the pluralistic structure of consciousness, the transpersonal movement is attempting to explore realms beyond this structure. Wilber’s post-SES work introduces a perspective from the next evolutionary structure of consciousness, the Integral structure, which is a stage closer to the transpersonal waves of development. 

Now, after several years of two fairly separate movements, the transpersonal and the integral, there appears to be some loosening of the boundaries. It seems that many transpersonalists are integrating Wilber’s post-SES model into transpersonal theory and many Integralists are reintegrating the transpersonal dimensions into their work. This emerging integrated movement is what I am calling Transpersonal 2.0, and to put it in post-SES terms…I would say that Transpersonal 1.0 is looking at the transpersonal waves of experience and development from the more limited perspective of the pluralistic wave (stage, worldview); Wilber’s post-SES Integral Theory introduces us to the missing stage of development between the pluralistic and the transpersonal, namely the Integral; and Transpersonal 2.0, as I am applying it, looks at the transpersonal waves from the closer worldview perspective of the Integral wave and brings the other structures of consciousness into greater perspective. To shack this out a little further, it seems to me that through a post-SES, Transpersonal 2.0 lens we could say that transpersonal studies is basically the theoretical and practical exploration of transpersonal (trans-egoic, non-ordinary, mystical, etc.) states and stages of development. 

Okay, so how is this definition different than the one held by the Transpersonal 1.0 movement. Well, on the surface it is the same, but when we go deeper I believe there are some subtle differences. One of these differences is that those operating out of the Transpersonal 1.0 perspective tend to have a conscious or unconscious resistance to structure, since the pluralistic level of consciousness tends to be anti-hierarchical. When we cross the bridge into Transpersonal 2.0 we can accept holarchical structures, that is, we can more easily accept and work with structured stages of increasing depth and complexity without falling into the hierarchical judgment trap (thinking this stage is better or worse than another; or throwing the stage-structure baby out with the bathwater entirely). Understanding that development occurs through a process of transcend and include, each stage both transcends and includes the previous stage, we see that every stage is a whole that is part of another whole, or a holon that is part of a holarchy. So in keeping with this spirit I have to remind us that Transpersonal 1.0 is not inferior to Transpersonal 2.0, it is a stage that is transcended and included… Every stage has its blessings and its challenges; and every station on the path must be passed through on the journey…