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Humberto Maturana: 9 Homosphere and Biosphere
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Biosphere, Homosphere, and Robosphere: what has that to do with Business?
Humberto Maturana Romesin and Pille Bunnell
Homosphere and Biosphere

In the history of living every moment, every change, whether it resulted in survival or extinction, has arisen along a path of preferences. This is how the course of evolution has taken place. We usually speak of evolution as a process of natural selection and in so doing confuse the outcome with the process. The outcome of following different paths of preferences is differential survival, and we call it selection. The word selection brings forth the notion of a force or an agent which is doing the selecting, but it is much simpler than that. It just happens, and selection is an explanation in the form of a history of what happened. A process is not what is going to happen as a result, it is what is happening now - and in living systems what is always happening is conservation of organization and adaptation.

Nevertheless, all living is only possible when there is flow of energy. Living systems are molecular systems that can exist only in a background which provides them with a flow of matter and energy. As we are living systems, we can only remain existing as long as matter and energy remain flowing. Part of our problem is that we have transformed energy into a commodity so we accumulate it and thus distort the flow of energy. Money is a way of commodifying energy.

We human beings have purposes and intentions. These are not fundamental biological forces, they are comments that we make concerning our doings. Our cells have no purpose, living has no purpose or intention. I remember a very distinguished cybernetician, Gordon Pask, used to say "If you see a purpose in a system, the system has a purpose." I do not agree with this. If you see a purpose in a system, you see a purpose in a system -- but the system doesn't have a purpose. Even if you create a system with a purpose, you design the operation of the system according to the criteria that define the purpose, but the system itself only operates according to its internal coherences. This is so with living systems.

When we human beings arose, and the homosphere began to expand, we created purpose and intention in our coordination of coordinations, and so purpose and intention began to be part of our living. As we create a domain of intentions and purposes, we do so with different degrees of vision concerning the ground on which we exist, that is concerning the systems we are embedded in.

That which we do not see does not participate in our operation as human beings. If we exist in the assumption of infinity, then what happens to the system in which we are embedded in does not enter our concerns, or our vision. But since we do remain embedded in a larger system, the larger system does participate in our operation as living systems. Though we live as humans in the homosphere, we are also living beings which live in the biosphere. Our existence as living beings is what makes our existence as humans possible. This is obvious, we all know it; we all know we exist as humans only as long as we are alive.

Thus, in the domain of the homosphere, we may intend to create human well being through reducing hunger. So we plant new hybrid food plants, we fertilize to make them grow, and we apply insecticides to protect the crop. As we do this we are unaware that we are incrementally damaging the whole living community under the ground - which makes the growth of what we planted possible. The changes in the soil are not part of our living, they happen in the biosphere. And they would remain invisible to us if they did not eventually enter the homosphere through crop failures as the ground became sterile. This is the usual way that we see the system we are embedded in. The alternative is to somehow imagine it. And to imagine it is not easy, and to take the biosphere into consideration is not easy.

The background in which the homosphere is embedded, and in which all human activities are eventually involved, has no presence in human activities unless we consider it as being there. The biosphere only exists if we wish to see it. What happens with our purposeful and intended behaviour will depend on our understanding of who, and how, and where we are. In this sense the homosphere is different from the biosphere. Our behaviour as living systems is modulated by understanding, and understanding is possible as we live in language. We can have whatever purpose we wish, we can choose what it is we wish to conserve. We may wish to conserve quality in a particular activity. We may wish to conserve the reduction of costs, or efficiency, or growth. We may wish to recover well being and responsibility in the realization of a particular activity... and whichever we choose the consequences are different.

And the consequences accrue not only to ourselves, but to the biosphere. We modify the biosphere. There is no particular way we are supposed to go with this. In this process of evolution nothing matters, there is no direction, there are no purposes or intention. The cosmos doesn't care, the earth doesn't care, the biosphere doesn't care what we do. The whole history of the biosphere is a history of tremendous alterations and massive waves of extinctions. Much has disappeared, and new things have appeared. In this sense if we modify the earth so that we create total ecological disaster, it does not matter. But for US it matters, or rather, for us it may matter.
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